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Monday, 19 March 2012

Competition law reforms announced

The Competition Commission and the Office of Fair Trading into a single Competition and Markets Authority will be merged, the government announced last week. The widely-expected changes will, if all goes according to plan, be fully implemented by April 2014, making the competition lawyer's favourite - indeed, only - joke (originally "why is there only one Monopolies Commission?") worth cracking again. The new body's name doesn't quite have the same ring to it, though.

The Government also proposes to amend the existing criminal cartel offence to abolish the requirement that an individual must act "dishonestly" to be guilty of the offence. This requirement is considered to have severely inhibited the successful prosecution of the offence, though on the other hand it does mean that only a very serious case will get to court. Abolition could lead to increased criminal prosecution and convictions of cartelists in the UK, but we are still out on a limb in Europe where other countries have no criminal cartel offences.

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