The UK’s competition law regime is on the cusp of the most fundamental and comprehensive reform in a generation, as a result of recently-enacted or planned reforms at both UK and EU level, which will come into operation over the next couple of years.
The two most significant sources of these reforms at UK level are:
- The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERRA), enacted in April 2013 and likely to come into effect in April 2014.
- The Consumer Rights Bill (CRB), currently being consulted on by the UK Government and potentially effective in late 2014.
Set against the background of a very challenging economic climate characterised by low/stagnating growth, these reforms are being presented as a necessary contribution to economic growth, aimed at stimulating competition and increasing efficiency and innovation levels, ultimately to the benefit of UK consumers. However, a number of the proposed reforms have the potential to significantly increase the costs and risks of doing business in the UK, which, given the continuing economic environment, is cause for considerable concern.
The combined impact of the various reforms to the UK competition regime represents a step-change for UK businesses. Whether this will be conducive to the growth of UK businesses and of the wider UK economy remains to be seen. One thing is certain, the reforms already enacted and coming into effect in April 2014 represent a materially increased level of antitrust risk for UK businesses (and individuals). Firms doing business in the UK would be well advised to review their compliance procedures and business practices now, to ensure they are prepared for April 2014.