Throughout the year, the CMA delivered a substantial volume of work to ensure effective enforcement of competition law for the benefit of consumers. It issued 7 Competition Act decisions, imposing fines totalling £56 million on companies for breaking competition law, and it secured the disqualification of 10 directors who, through involvement in anti-competitive practices, have shown themselves to be unfit to be company directors.
The CMA continued to work to ensure consumers, including the vulnerable, can access markets, get a good deal from suppliers and be protected from unfair trading. It secured consumer protection commitments from 29 companies in 4 investigations. It continued action to stop care home residents from being unfairly treated in the fees they are charged, launched enforcement action into leasehold properties to ensure homeowners are protected and developed guidance for IVF clinics to allow patients can make informed choices.
It also secured important changes to ensure that consumers are treated fairly when shopping online, whether booking a hotel room, buying tickets for concerts or sports events, reading reviews when buying goods or buying musical instruments.
In its markets work, the CMA prioritised issues that directly impact on things that matter to consumers. It progressed its investigation into the funeral sector, proposed reforms to Scottish legal services and launched a market study into online platforms and its digital markets strategy, setting out how it will continue to protect consumers in rapidly developing markets, while fostering innovation.
The CMA acted to protect consumers from the harmful effects of anticompetitive mergers, reviewing 62 mergers and intervening where consumers needed protecting. This has resulted in remedies being put in place to ensure consumers are not harmed; companies abandoning mergers as a result of CMA investigations; and the CMA blocking mergers where we judged the risk of consumer harm to be especially great.
Looking ahead to its expanded role after the UK withdrawal from the EU, the CMA made substantial progress in ensuring that it has the necessary people, skills and infrastructure in place. It published guidance to explain how it will conduct its work during the transition period and contributed to and advised on the government’s planning for various options for the creation of a domestic subsidy control regime.
At the end of the reporting year, the focus of the CMA’s work was on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It acted quickly to ensure that its approach to enforcing competition law did not stand in the way of necessary co-operation between suppliers to maintain the supply of essential goods and services. The CMA also set up a COVID-19 taskforce to monitor market developments and gather evidence of harmful practices to enable it to intervene where it can, as quickly as it can.