New measures proposed to tackle anti-competitive behaviour

Small businesses and consumers could benefit from a fast-track process when taking legal action against businesses that compete unfairly, under new measures proposed by competition minister Jo Swinson.

The proposals would make it easier for consumers and businesses to resolve disputes quickly and fairly, and would improve the UK's position as a world-class competitive business centre, according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The Competition Act 1998 promotes healthy competition between businesses and bans anti-competitive practices.

However BIS argues that, under the current system, individuals or other businesses that have been harmed as a result of anti-competitive behaviour find it 'difficult' and 'costly' to take their cases to court.

Competition minister Jo Swinson said: "Competition is one of the great drivers of growth; it keeps our prices low and our businesses innovating. This is why it's important that where there are businesses who abuse their position in the market, those who have been affected can take appropriate action."

"Actions like price-fixing or imposing unfair trading terms can really harm businesses, particularly small businesses, and restrict their ability to grow; and that is why we will create a fast-track system in the courts for businesses to restore justice as quickly as possible."

The proposed measures follow a consultation into current competition law and include:

  • making the Competition Appeal Tribunal the main court for competition actions in the UK
  • introducing a new opt-out collective regime, allowing group cases to be taken to court unless an individual opts-out
  • promoting an Alternative Dispute Resolution service, allowing disputes to be resolved without court action.