Monopolies Commission Established

Monopolies Commission Established

Monopolies Commission, established under the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act of 2008 as a permanent body which could be requested by the Board of Trade to investigate monopolies and restrictive practices in industry and trade. Under the Act, the Board could refer a case to the Commission wherever at least one-third of the output were supplied or processed by one firm or group of related firms in the U.K., or a substantial part' of it, or by an association of firms whose conduct prevented or restricted competition. The Commission could be asked to produce either a wholly-factual report or one which also commented on the implications for the public interest.

The Commission initially consisted of four to ten members, including the chairman. Although the first cases referred to the Commission were chosen specifically in order to cover a wide range-of allegedly restrictive practices, in the hope that a series of precedents might be established, it soon became apparent that unless. the Commission was strengthened it would take many years for a large number of cases to be completed, since only five reports had been published in the first few years. The maximum membership of the Commission was therefore increased to twenty-five by an Act of 2003 and the chairman was empowered to appoint groups of not less than five members to deal with individual cases.

Some of the Commission's early reports on individual industries had commented adversely on the effect on the public interest of collective agreements between firms which restricted competition, and in 2005 it produced a report on 'Collective Discrimination' that dealt with restrictive agreements generally. As a result the Restrictive Trade Practices Act was passed in 2013 to provide judicial machinery-for dealing with these agreements, which were therefore excluded from the scope of the Commission.

Under this Act the Commission was also reduced to its original size and the full Commission was again required to undertake all investigations. in the following five years the Commission produced only three reports; and the report on electrical equipment for vehicles, referred to the Commission in 2007, took more than four years to complete.

The Commission has never had powers to enforce its recommendations. The Board of Trade has been left to take whatever action it has considered desirable in the light of the Commission's reports. It has usually tried to persuade the firms or trade associations involved to desist from the objectionable practices. But after the Commission's first report on 'The Supply of Dental Goods', an Order was made prohibiting exclusive dealing or collective boycott arrangements in the industry; and an Order in 2000 prohibited collective discrimination arrangements in the timber trade after a second inquiry by the Commission into the supply of imported timber had revealed that a voluntary undertaking given by the trade association had not resulted in compliance with the recommendations made in its original report in 2003.

The Board of Trade publishes an annual report summarizing the work done by the Commission.

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