The UK Competition Bill was introduced into Parliament on 26 March. The Bill will introduce a new regime for merger control and market investigation with the key criterion being based in competitive ramifications rather than the current public interest test.
Criminal penalties of up to 5 years may be imposed on those breaking the rules and directors at fault could be disqualified. In addition, those affected by the anti-competitive practice would be able to sue for damages.
Currently, UK law prohibits any agreement that restricts, prevents or distorts competition within the UK or part of it. However, UK laws do not normally apply where your business is dealing with another business at different level within the supply chain. However, if for instance you are a manufacturer or are dealing with a manufacturer, then the provisions apply and an exemption will be necessary. It is intended that block exemptions similar to those applicable under EC law will be introduced. If block exemptions are inapplicable, an individual exemption from the UK competition authorities may be necessary.
Fines of up to 10% of the turnover may be imposed and the UK office of Fair Trading has similar powers to the European Commission (see below).