"The UK has an analogue system of competition and consumer law in a digital age" wrote Lord Andrew Tyrie, chair of the CMA, in a letter sent to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) this week outlining his proposals on legislative and institutional reforms to the UK competition regime.
Tyrie cites the "increasing digitalisation of the economy" as at least part of the reason for "the growth of new and rapidly-emerging forms of consumer detriment". One concern in particular is the ability of companies to use technology to more effectively target and segment consumers according to their willingness to pay, potentially pricing out or ignoring vulnerable consumers completely. The proposed reforms set out in the letter are aimed at better equipping the UK's competition watchdog with the tools to address these issues.
While any set of reforms would take time to implement, the CMA's capacity to take on complex digital cases may be constrained by sheer lack of manpower, a problem exacerbated by the uncertainty of Brexit, despite significant recruiting efforts by the CMA.
At a press conference on Monday, responding to questions about whether the CMA would take up calls by a parliamentary committee to investigate Facebook, CEO Andrea Coscelli said that whether and when it would open such an investigation depends on what happens with Brexit. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, its caseload could effectively double overnight. If a deal is reached, such requests "will be pretty much top of our list."
Our briefing on potential CMA reforms examines the implications in more detail.
The UK has an analogue system of competition and consumer law in a digital age.