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In March 2012, the UK Government announced its long-awaited reforms of the UK's competition regime, including proposed reforms of UK antitrust enforcement. This article identifies and analyses the key drivers of UK antitrust enforcement reform - the reforms being aimed at making the enforcement process quicker, more transparent, more robust (including addressing perceptions of ‘confirmation bias') and increasing the overall enforcement output. For many, the reforms are a missed opportunity for wholesale UK antitrust enforcement reform and in particular a move to a prosecutorial model. However, the OFT has successfully fought off the imposition of a prosecutorial model by the government. The OFT has also not wasted any time in seeking to move towards an 'enhanced administrative model', with further significant changes to its enforcement regime currently being consulted on, a little over a year since its last significant Competition Act procedural consultation. For the OFT and the new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the enforcement reforms will be challenging to implement at a time when there is fundamental structural and organisational changes merging the OFT and the Competition Commission. There is also an inherent tension between more robust decision-making on the one hand and ensuring more and quicker antitrust decisions on the other. Nevertheless, the OFT/CMA have a clear 5-year timetable within which they will need to deliver more enforcement ‘throughput' and change external perceptions around their Competition Act enforcement. Failure to do so, could result in a move to a prosecutorial model. It will therefore be interesting to see how the OFT in the first instance and then the CMA pick up the gauntlet and respond to these challenges.
To read the rest of this article, see Competition Law Journal: , Issue 2, Articles (link for online subscribers who have already logged in click here).
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