Is an in-depth energy market inquiry worth it?

March 27, 2014

(by Catherine Waddams) The decision to refer the energy market to the new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be welcomed by many but will also have costs. On the positive side, the opportunity for a thorough review of the market enables analysis without immediate political pressure, either directly on the market or on the regulator. It is important to restore public confidence in the market, either by giving it a clean bill of health, or identifying any problems and remedying them. Read the rest of this entry »


Ofcom: A Credible Solution to Bias in Media Public Interest Mergers?

February 16, 2014

(by David Reader) On 4 February, the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications published its Report on Media Plurality proposing a number of changes to media ownership regulation in the UK. Among the most notable is the proposal to grant decision-making powers to the media regulator, Ofcom, in mergers raising potential media plurality concerns. At present, this role is performed by the Secretary of State but, as has been noted in a previous post by Andreas Stephan, the ability of politicians to undertake this role impartially has recently been called into question. In particular, the close contact between a NewsCorp lobbyist and a Special Adviser to (the then Culture Secretary) Jeremy Hunt during the NewsCorp/BSkyB assessment, as exposed by the Leveson Inquiry, highlights the sheer extent to which politicians can be subjected to undue influence in the media sector. Re-allocating the decision-making role to Ofcom could overcome this problem, but it could equally amount to substituting one problem for another. Read the rest of this entry »


A Simple Way to Boost Competition in the Energy Market

November 8, 2013

(by Andreas Stephan) The latest round of increases in energy prices has sparked an angry debate about how well competition is working in the UK market. Energy companies claim increases reflect rising wholesale prices and government levies, while politicians are making allegations of collusion. A long term view of how to make the energy market more competitive for consumers has been drowned out by political point scoring. Yet there may be a simple way of jump starting greater competitive pressures against the relentless price rises. Read the rest of this entry »


Could Politicians Be Driving Up Energy Prices?

October 11, 2013

(by Andreas Stephan) We are once again seeing the familiar picture of one energy company announcing a significant price increase, no doubt soon to be followed by other major players in the industry. SSE is to raise gas and electricity prices by 8.2%, a figure that is three times the current rate of inflation and comes at a time when UK households are continuing to endure declining income in real terms. My colleagues, Catherine Waddams and Chris Hanretty have recently written on this blog about proposals by the Labour party to cap prices and abolish the regulator. However, there is also a possibility that statements made by politicians, intended to reduce prices, may actually be having the opposite effect. Read the rest of this entry »


Monitor’s Advice to the OFT and the New Healthcare Regulation

February 20, 2013

(by Mary Guy)[1] On 11 February, Monitor (the UK’s independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts) published its advice to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) regarding the anticipated merger of Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (hereafter “the Dorset FT merger”). This is the first NHS merger to be assessed on competition grounds under the Enterprise Act 2002 (EA02) merger provisions as implemented by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (HSCA 2012). It has been referred by the OFT to the Competition Commission (CC), which will produce its final report by June 24, 2013. Read the rest of this entry »


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