TLT, Linklaters advise Compare the Market on successful antitrust case appeal

Firms help overturn £17.9m fine imposed by the Competition and Markets Authority

UK law firms TLT and Linklaters have helped price comparison website Compare the Market overturn a £17.9m fine from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The multimillion pound fine had been imposed by the CMA for the company’s use of contracts that prevented home insurers listed on Compare the Market’s website from offering better deals anywhere else.

The firms advised Compare the Market on its successful appeal that the price comparison site’s historic use of best price clauses – referred to as wide most favoured nation clauses – did not have an adverse effect on competition and was simply a way to secure better home insurance deals for UK consumers. The UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal upheld five of the company’s six substantive grounds for appeal of the CMA’s original decision. 

The CMA had argued that the clauses could ‘soften intra-brand competition’ among home insurers and from other price comparison websites. The CAT rejected that view, stating that the clauses had no harmful impact or even a potential harmful impact on the competitive structure of the market or that it adversely affected commissions paid by home insurers to price comparison sites or home insurance premiums paid by consumers. Consequently, the CAT overturned the original ruling, quashing the CMA’s fine. The CMA has until September 16 to apply for permission to appeal the CAT’s judgment.

The case was the first time the use of price parity clauses by digital platforms had received full judicial scrutiny in a specialist competition court.

TLT’s competition team was led by partner Miles Trower and supported by senior associates Richard Collie and Charlotte Mapston and associate Molly Efford, who advised the price comparison site on the investigation and subsequent CAT proceedings. 

Linklaters’ cross-practice team was led by antitrust and foreign investment group partner Nicole Kar and dispute resolution partner Tom Cassels alongside managing associate Haidee Barratt and associate Benjamin Sidbury.

Daniel Beard QC and Alison Berridge of Monckton Chambers represented Compare the Market before the CAT.

Oxera Consulting, an economics and finance consultancy, also advised Compare the Market on the case.

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