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Review of the OFT’s investigation procedures in competition cases

Start date: 28 March 2012
End date: 19 June 2012
Next milestone: Publication of revised guidance in Autumn 2012

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Update 15 March 2013

Our CA98 guidance consultation asked whether businesses and advisors would value further guidance on our approach to settlement, or whether this was best left to the CMA. We have now carefully considered the responses and have concluded that the best approach is to progress this in the context of the creation of new guidance for the CMA (already underway by CC and OFT staff). Meanwhile, we remain open to considering settlement as part of our work on competition cases. The role of the Policy Committee in relation to approving the commencement of settlement negotiations and approving 'agreements in principle' reached is set out in the CA98 Procedural Guidance published in October 2012.

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Update 16 October 2012

The OFT has now published its final revised Guide to the OFT's investigation procedures in competition cases (the CA98 Procedures Guidance), which takes effect from today's publication.

The OFT has also published an updated note of the Procedural Adjudicator (PA) trial and a Summary of Responses to its consultation, which includes the OFT's views on the comments received from stakeholders.

Ongoing cases under the CA98 in which a Statement of Objections was issued prior to 18 July 2012 will continue to be governed by the decision-making model set out in the previous version of the OFT's guidance, dated March 2011.

In May 2012, the OFT hosted a discussion event for external stakeholders, and has published a synopsis of the issues discussed at that event.

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Update 6 September 2012

Following closure of the consultation period on 19 June 2012, and having considered the responses received, the OFT has decided to move to a system of collective decision-making for certain decisions in investigations under the Competition Act 1998 (CA98). Further details of that decision-making model and of other changes to the OFT's procedures in CA98 cases will be set out in the OFT's revised CA98 procedural guidance, expected to be published in Autumn 2012.

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Summary of work

On 28 March 2012 the OFT published for consultation a revised draft of its guidance on the OFT's investigation procedures in competition cases, which was first published on 2 March 2011 (OFT1263). The guidance sets out clearly the procedures the OFT follows in Competition Act 1998 investigations, from the opening of cases through to their final resolution.

The primary purpose of the document is to consult on the OFT's proposal to introduce a new structure for the way the OFT makes decisions in investigations under the Competition Act 1998. The OFT also announced in this consultation document the extension of the trial of the Procedural Adjudicator's role for a further year (until 21 March 2013), with an expanded remit, and a number of other enhancements it is making to its Competition Act 1998 investigation processes. These include the publication of case opening notices and administrative timetables, more state of play meetings, a new ability for parties to make representations on key elements of draft penalty calculations, enhanced oral hearings and new arrangements for internal checks and balances.

The enhancements set out in this document are aimed at increasing the speed of CA98 investigations, enhancing the level of engagement with parties to investigations, and at improving robustness of the OFT's decision-making processes. They build on the changes made in the OFT's Procedures guidance published in March 2011 and are part of a programme of continuous improvements in CA98 procedures over the last few years to take into account lessons learnt from cases, international best practice and feedback from interested parties. The improvements also address feedback from the public consultation issued by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the reform of the competition regime.

The guidance is limited to the OFT's investigations under the CA98 and does not extend to investigations by sectoral regulators. Also, the changes the OFT is making are changes to the OFT's (not CMA) procedures, although they may well be relevant for several years to come.

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Next steps

The consultation closed on 19 June 2012. The OFT expects to publish its revised CA98 procedural guidance in Autumn 2012. If you have any queries regarding the consultation, please contact the team in charge of this project.

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Related documents

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Team Leader: Ginevra Di Berardino (020 7211 5835
Project Director: Simon Constantine (020 7211 5867
Senior Responsible Officer: Jackie Holland (020 7211 8447

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