Lawyers welcome UK competition reforms

By Jonathan Ames

18 October 2012 at 11:18 BST

Specialist lawyers have welcomed moves by Britain's competition watchdog to reform its decision-making process and create a three-person panel to deal with infringement and penalty rulings.

UK media reports cite the Office of Fair Trading as promoting the move as enhancing its efficiency in case handling. A report in London-based Legal Week points to other planned changes, including allowing parties to comment on proposed penalties before a final decision is handed down and for more oral hearings.


The report quotes several leading lawyers who support the reforms. Clifford Chance competition partner Alastair Mordaunt told the newspaper: ‘The guidelines ... are clear and they go quite some way to making the OFT decision-making procedures more robust. To its credit, the OFT has listened to stakeholders during the consultation process.’
Legal Week also spoke to Philipp Girardet, a competition partner at London-based SJ Berwin, who was previously deputy director at the OFT’s cartels department. He said it would be interesting to see ‘whether the members of the new case decision group are willing to get their hands dirty and really critically look at the fundamentals of a case ... If they do... the new procedures will be a very positive thing ...’


But Mr Mordaunt sounded a note of caution. ‘Don’t be under the illusion,’ he said, ‘that investigations will get quicker – it’s hard to see how this will be possible given the injection of additional robustness.’
The report also highlights an OFT move to publish on its web site case-opening notices and case-specific administrative timetables in a further bid to improve transparency.


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