UK competition law
UK competition law
Competition legislation is very important in ensuring that competition is not stifled and that co-ordinated practices or agreements between parties do not unfairly drive prices up or down.
All relevant parties should be careful not to act in a way that may directly or indirectly affect competition, and if they have concerns that their procedures may risk breaching the competition legislation, they should take their own legal advice.
It is vital that PSNC, as the national representative body, and the LPCs as local parties to negotiations all behave responsibly and do not set out to undermine competition or otherwise breach the legislation, and are prepared to act swiftly if any practice is found to be or it is suggested that it might breach competition law.
Competition and consumer protection, including the investigation of alleged breaches of UK or EU prohibitions against anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominant positions, are the remit of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA is therefore responsible for the enforcement of the competition rules in the UK.
Sharing of fees for local services
LPCs seeking to determine fees for locally commissioned services may want to discuss with other LPCs the levels of fees paid for other comparable services commissioned elsewhere. Commissioners may also want to establish ‘ball park’ figures for services that have been commissioned elsewhere before negotiating locally.
PSNC sought guidance some years ago from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) – which at that time was the relevant authority for competition matters – on such sharing of information and was advised on an informal basis, that the sharing of historic (i.e. previously agreed) fees by LPCs is unlikely to contravene the competition legislation, as the LPCs are not competing with each other. The informal advice from the OFT is limited in nature, and it is important to recognise that it does not authorise the sharing of information relating to proposed fees.
In some cases, it may be necessary to take legal advice from lawyers experienced in competition matters. Although it is for each organisation to decide whether it needs to seek guidance about its own practices, it is hoped that all organisations would be open with the others about any concerns, so that all may review whether their practices comply with the legislation.