OFT draft Annual Plan 2006/7

United Kingdom

The OFT has recently published its draft Annual Plan for 2006/7 for consultation. This is the second of three Annual Plans in the OFT’s three-year work cycle. The Plan responds, in part, to recent criticisms from the National Audit Office (NAO) and from the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) about the way in which the OFT conducts its investigations and the decisions it reaches. In short, the OFT pledges to take steps to investigate more thoroughly and speedily and to test more vigorously the conclusions it reaches along the way.

For would-be complainants, applicants, parties under investigation and other interested parties, the practical implications are likely to be:

  • a need to provide more detailed submissions/information in writing and orally (probably with a preference for the written form);
  • a greater willingness to engage in the debate and testing of information provided;
  • more frequent and involved contact with the OFT;
  • shorter and more transparent deadlines.

Will the overall impact be a lengthening or shortening of the administrative process? The OFT proposes that by prioritising its casework more systematically, it can improve the timeliness of its investigations and proposes to publish more detailed thinking on the subject in due course. We think that, on balance, the OFT’s proposals are more likely to protract the administrative process, unless the OFT is to have greater resources at its disposal. The trade off may ultimately be more robust OFT decisions which stand up better to judicial scrutiny. In the long run this could save time and cost. But there is room for improvement in the short term and we are not sure the OFT adequately addresses this in its draft Annual Plan.

Have your say: the OFT invites comments on the draft Annual Plan (for the full text click here, this will open a PDF in a new window) by 6 February 2006.