CMA consults on draft Annual Plan
The CMA has signalled its priorities for the coming year in its draft Annual Plan that is now open for consultation (with a 13 January deadline for comments/views).
Noting the potential impact of Brexit (and uncertainty around its exact nature and timing) on the CMA's future caseload, the CMA's plans for new case work revolve around a set of priority themes rather than specific objectives. Those themes are:
- protecting vulnerable consumers
- improving trust in markets
- promoting better competition in online markets
- supporting economic growth and productivity.
Building on previous work, the CMA will support these themes through, for example:
- strengthening its new Data, Technology and Analytic Unit, where it has recently appointed Stefan Hunt as Chief Data and Technology Insights Officer
- possible further work on digital advertising, where it has a live investigation into influencer marketing and is considering a UK digital advertising market study
- prioritising work in markets which underpin and enable economic growth, such as audit services
- conveying to stakeholders the importance of competitive markets for overall societal and economic benefit.
Whilst competition enforcement remains the key priority for the CMA, the CMA’s current caseload shows that it is committed to maintaining a balanced portfolio, with 23 competition enforcement cases, five consumer enforcement cases, one super-complaint investigation, 17 merger investigations, one market investigation and two market studies.
The CMA’s priority themes echo a central message from the CMA – a mission to bring the CMA and the benefits of competitive markets closer to the centre of UK economic life. It is also preparing to seize the opportunity offered by Brexit to take on a bigger role on the world stage. It is prioritising Brexit planning to ensure its readiness for 29 March 2019 and the extra caseload from assuming responsibility, within the UK, for cases previously reserved to the EU Commission - the largest merger control cases, larger and more complex competition enforcement cases and State aid.
The CMA is matching its resources to the expanded and more central role it is shaping for itself, by ramping up its staffing, skills and infrastructure, expanding its new Edinburgh office and increasing its presence in Wales and Northern Ireland.
Looking beyond the additional merger control and State aid work it will be required to undertake following Brexit, the CMA is clearly signalling more targetted interventions in major markets as well as smaller markets served by SMEs. We can expect the digital economy and markets serving the most vulnerable consumers (such as the elderly and infirm and their families) to be particular areas of focus, following on from the CMA’s recent roundtable discussion with Citizens Advice on the challenges and opportunities for vulnerable consumers in relation to data and digital market development.
Further information on the plan and details of how to respond to the consultation are available here.