The CMA Consults on its Annual Plan for 2022/23

In December the CMA issued its proposed Annual Plan for 2022/23. Below we highlight four key points for businesses to note:

  1. The Digital Markets Unit, established in shadow form in April 2021, is preparing to oversee the UK’s new Digital Markets regime from its new Manchester office. Until legislation is enacted, the CMA will continue to use existing tools (such as antitrust enforcement and merger control rules) to address areas of concern in digital markets. This work goes hand in hand with the CMA’s consumer law enforcement work in the digital space, which has involved clamping down on areas such as social media endorsements and secondary ticket platforms.
  2. The CMA will prioritise cases where practices could impede the successful transition to a low carbon economy and will work to meet the UK government’s net zero targets by providing more guidance for businesses on how to engage in green initiatives that comply with competition law. Likewise, it will continue consumer protection enforcement in line with the Green Claims Code. Businesses engaged in sustainability initiatives are therefore encouraged to understand how to comply with competition and consumer law. The CMA also reminds businesses that the Green Claims Code is in force from early 2022.
  3. The CMA will continue taking tough action to protect consumers from anti-competitive and unfair trading practices. The CMA supports the Government’s proposals for stronger consumer protection laws and powers for the CMA (including fines) to address harmful practices that might arise as the economy recovers and adapts from the pandemic. The CMA currently has nearly as many consumer protection cases open as competition cases, which highlights the significance of its role in this space.
  4. Since Brexit, the CMA has launched the Office for the Internal Market (OIM) and is planning for the establishment of the Subsidy Advice Unit (SAU). The SAU will monitor the overall functioning of the UK’s new subsidy control regime and provide non-binding advice to public authorities. The CMA will also continue to co-operate with international partners on a wide variety of issues, the CMA will also build upon its existing partnerships with other UK regulators, such as the ICO.

Overall, the CMA has sent a strong signal that it wishes to underline its role at the forefront of global competition and consumer law enforcement. Increasing its size, scope, and enforcement activity with the likely resumption of dawn raids, reinforced by the anticipated legislative and policy changes (including enhanced powers and revised block exemption rules), mean that businesses will be impacted and need to be alert to changes as they develop.

The CMA welcomes input on its proposed plan until 21 January 2022. The Annual Plan for 2022/23 will be published at the end of March 2022.

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