I’m a dissatisfied customer in a fairly unusual market …the market for opinion polls

May 12, 2015

(by Chris Hanretty) I’m more an end-user rather than a customer: I don’t buy opinion polls, but rely on a number of polling companies to publish their results which are (typically) commissioned by national newspapers or other media outlets.

This market has recently suffered a clamorous and highly visible failure. Most polls before the 2015 UK general election suggested that approximately equal proportions of people intended to vote for the Conservative and Labour parties respectively. In the end, the Conservatives finished six and a half percentage points ahead.

Given the size of this failure — and CCP’s obvious interest in competition and troubled markets — it’s reasonable to ask whether the polling industry’s failure is evidence of a broader failure in the market for public opinion research. Read the rest of this entry »


The European Damages Directive fails to deliver, but can it be fixed?

March 3, 2015

(by Sebastian Peyer) The European Commission’s Damages Directive[1] was recently signed into law and the Member States have been given two years to implement the rules of the Damages Directive into national law. In this blog post I argue that the Directive fails to achieve its stated goal of compensation because it does not reduce litigation costs or incentivise the bringing of costly legal actions. Instead, the Damages Directive seeks to safeguard public enforcement from private follow-on actions. It is therefore unlikely to facilitate greater levels of private enforcement. For the Damages Directive to become effective, it should be supplemented with further legislation to incentivise stand-alone actions.[2] Read the rest of this entry »


Competition Law Compliance, Leniency and Corporate Governance: Between a Rock and a Hard Place?

November 26, 2014

(by Andreas Stephan). In the recent much talked about Automotive News article, ‘Confessions of a Price Fixer’, an anonymous Japanese car parts executive claims to have been incentivised by his firm to plead guilty to a US antitrust charge. The implication is that the firm did this to negotiate a lower fine with the US Department of Justice and possibly distract from the involvement of more senior employees. The individual, like many other Japanese executives involved in price fixing, has now served his time and is back at work with the same company. The story raises interesting questions about corporate governance; in particular firms’ failure to adequately discipline employees involved in cartel activity. However, even where there is a willingness to take action, the individuals involved in the infringement may hold all the cards. Read the rest of this entry »


Competition Policy and Scottish Independence

July 1, 2014

(by Andreas Stephan) On 18 September 2014 Scottish residents will be asked whether Scotland should be an independent country. A discussion was held at the recent Antitrust Enforcement Symposium (held by the University of Oxford’s Centre for Competition Law and Policy) regarding competition policy in an independent Scotland. This blog piece focuses on the impact independence would have on competition enforcement in Britain. Read the rest of this entry »


The Meaning of ‘Relevant Customer Benefits’ in the Context of Health Care: Monitor’s Advice and the Competition Commission’s Response

October 28, 2013

(by Mary Guy)[1] On 17 October, the Competition Commission (CC) blocked the proposed merger between Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (hereafter “the Dorset FT merger”), the first to be assessed under the regime for Foundation Trusts (FTs) established by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (HSCA 2012). This new regime sees Monitor providing advice regarding “relevant customer benefits” to the OFT, which – along with the CC – has exclusive competence to determine mergers between NHS FTs. The case suggests that a higher standard of ‘relevant customer benefits’ is applied in the context of mergers in health care. Read the rest of this entry »


Cameron’s Plans for Energy Combine the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

October 24, 2013

(by Catherine Waddams) Yesterday the Prime Minister announced two new measures as a response to the latest increases in energy prices. He promised an annual review of competition in the market and to “roll back some of the green regulations and charges that are pushing up bills”. While an enquiry by competition authorities should be welcomed, the proposed measures also raise some serious concerns. Read the rest of this entry »


Labour’s proposal to abolish Ofgem: if you don’t like the answer, change the regulator?

September 25, 2013

(by Chris Hanretty) At its party conference this week the Labour party offered starkly differing views on the value of independent authorities. On Monday, Ed Balls called for the (independent) Office of Budgetary Responsibility to audit the costings of measures in Labour’s election manifesto. On Tuesday, Ed Miliband called for (independent) energy market regulator Ofgem to be abolished and replaced by a new energy regulator with power to set retail prices.

It’s not hard to see some tension between these two proposals. Suppose that in 2018 the OBR were to issue a negative verdict on the economic plans of a future Labour government. Would we see calls to abolish the OBR and replace it with another authority capable of adopting a broader view? That’s unlikely: the whole value of the OBR depends on it operating without regard to interference like this. Read the rest of this entry »


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