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1 August 2002
The OFT is studying the implications of the judgment in detail and considering whether to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland.
BetterCare (who run private care homes) complained to the OFT that North & West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust (N&W), BetterCare's main customer in the north and west Belfast area, was abusing a dominant position by offering unfairly low prices and unfair terms in its purchases from BetterCare of residential and nursing care. OFT rejected BetterCare's complaint on the grounds that N&W when purchasing residential and nursing care for the disadvantaged in society using monies raised by taxation was not acting as an undertaking. The Competition Act 1998 only applies to undertakings.
BetterCare appealed to the Competition Commission Appeal Tribunal (CCAT) on two points:
On the first point, the CCAT ruled on 26 March 2002. It concluded that the views given by OFT in its correspondence with BetterCare amounted to a decision that the Chapter II prohibition had not been infringed and, as such, was appealable to the CCAT.
Today's judgment overturns the OFT's decision and confirms that N&W is engaging in economic activities (and is therefore an undertaking) in running its statutory residential homes and in contracting-out the supply of nursing and residential care to independent providers.
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