Whilst the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills sets the overall policy framework for competition, it is regulated by the UK’s independent competition authorities.
There are four main competition bodies that are responsible for investigating and enforcing decisions on competition matters in the UK market:
- The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is the principal competition authority whose responsibility is to enforce competition and make markets work well for the benefit of consumers. The OFT derives most of its powers from the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Competition Act 1998. The OFT investigates anticompetitive practices in markets and mergers and enforces consumer law.
- The Competition Commission (CC) conducts in-depth inquiries into mergers, markets and the regulation of certain industries such as utilities and communications. However, the CC only undertakes its inquiries where they have been referred to it by the OFT, one of the sectoral regulators or in exceptional circumstances the Secretary of State.
- The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) is a specialist judicial body whose function is to hear and rule on appeals of decisions made by the competition authorities. The CAT has a cross-disciplinary expertise in law, economics, business, competition and economic regulatory issues.
- The European Commission (Directorate General for Competition) has exclusive powers to act on certain large mergers with a European dimension. It also has powers to investigate anticompetitive practices when trade between members of the European Community, or in some cases the European Economic Area (EEA), is affected.