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Press releases 2002 -

New competition and consumer law responsibilities for OFT

OFT launches guide to Enterprise Act

PN 74/02     8 November 2002

The OFT today published a guide to the principal competition and consumer provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and its new powers, role and structure under the Act. It also launched an Enterprise Act enquiry line.
Download the guide Overview of the Enterprise Act: The competition and consumer provisions in pdf format (139 kb).

The Enterprise Act has received Royal Assent and will come into force during spring and summer 2003.

The Act makes major reforms to competition law and consumer law enforcement in the UK, including removing ministers from most decisions on mergers, criminalising individual participation in hard-core cartels, streamlining appeals mechanisms, and establishing new procedures for tackling trading practices that harm consumers. The new provisions will work alongside the Competition Act 1998 and existing consumer legislation, largely replacing the Fair Trading Act 1973.

The Act will establish the OFT as a corporate body with a board. The statutory position of the Director General of Fair Trading will be abolished and his functions will all be transferred to the new OFT.

Today's guide explains:

  • the purpose and structure of the Enterprise Act
  • the new structure of the OFT, its functions and core duties
  • how the new merger control regime will work
  • the new system of market investigation references to the Competition Commission
  • the new criminal offence for individuals dishonestly engaged in hard-core cartels and the OFT's powers of investigation in connection with cartels
  • new powers to apply to court for orders disqualifying directors of companies which have breached of competition law
  • how designated consumer bodies can make 'super-complaints' to the OFT about markets which may not be working well for consumers
  • new procedures for enforcing consumer legislation, extending the Stop Now Orders Regulations and replacing Part III of the Fair Trading Act 1973
  • the OFT's role in approving and promoting consumer codes of practice
  • new requirements for safeguarding information about individuals or businesses which the OFT has gathered in the course of its work
  • stronger mechanisms of accountability, including new rights of appeal to the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

John Vickers, Director General of Fair Trading, said:

'The Enterprise Act strengthens and clarifies the OFT's role in making markets work well for consumers. Today's guide explains how we will carry out the responsibilities that the Act gives us.'

NOTES

1. Download the guide Overview of the Enterprise Act: The competition and consumer provisions in pdf format (139 kb).  It  can also be ordered by telephone on 0870 60 60 321.

2. The Enterprise Act enquiry line is on 020 7211 8181. Queries can also be submitted by email to enterpriseact.enquiries@oft.gsi.gov.uk.

3. The OFT has issued a series of guidance documents for consultation on various aspects of the Enterprise Act. OFT Enterprise Act publications currently available are:

  • Competition Disqualification Orders – consultation paper issued July 2002
  • Market investigation references – consultation paper issued July 2002
  • Consumer reforms – consultation paper issued August 2002
  • The cartel offence: no action letters for individuals – consultation paper issued July 2002
  • Super-complaints: guidance for designated consumer bodies – consultation paper issued August 2002
  • Mergers: substantive analysis – consultation paper issued October 2002

All these publications can be downloaded from the Enterprise Act publications page, or ordered by telephone on 0870 60 60 321.

4. The competition and consumer provisions of the Enterprise Act are expected to come into force during the spring and summer of 2003. There may be different commencement dates for different parts of the Act. When the relevant dates are set by the Secretary of State, they will be published on the Department of Trade and Industry website.

5. Until commencement of the Act, existing legislation, in particular the Fair Trading Act 1973, will remain in force. The Act contains transitional provisions so that businesses, consumers and their advisors can be certain as to which legislation and procedures will govern events such as mergers and market investigations that take place around the time the Act comes into force.

6. Part five of the Act deals with the Competition Commission (CC) and provides for its rules of procedure and is not covered by the OFT guide. Further information can be found at the CC website at www.competition-commission.org.uk.

7. Part ten of the Act changes insolvency law and is not covered by the OFT guide. Information relating to the insolvency provisions of the Act may be found at www.insolvency.gov.uk/.




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