UK market investigations

The following Competition practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • UK market investigations
  • Areas of concern that may prompt a market investigation
  • What do market investigations look at?
  • Call for information
  • Market studies (phase 1)
  • Process
  • Potential outcomes
  • Investigatory powers
  • Market investigation references (phase 2)
  • References by sector regulators
  • More...

UK market investigations

In the UK, investigations into markets can be carried out where there are concerns that markets may not be working well, to find out why and consider what, if any, action can be taken to address concerns. Market investigations are carried out by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)—in regulated sectors, regulators with concurrent competition enforcement powers can also carry out first stage market investigations.

There are three different stages to investigating markets in the UK:

  1. a call for information to determine if there are issues to consider (note—in certain circumstances, this stage can be missed out)

  2. if there appear to be issues to look at, a 'market study' will be carried out (the phase 1 investigation), and

  3. if, following the phase 1 investigation, the CMA has concerns about how a market operates, it can take action or can refer the market for a more in-depth phase 2 investigation (called a 'market investigation reference').

For a flowchart summarising the different stages noted above, see UK market investigations—steps in investigations—flowchart.

A number of markets are reviewed by the CMA at phase 1 and any issues are usually dealt with through voluntary action agreed between the CMA and the firms involved, or through recommendations to government or other regulators. It is not often that a market is referred for a phase 2 investigation.

Ultimately, if, after a phase

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