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Office of Fair Trading Closes – What Next for Businesses?

On 31 March 2014 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) closed its doors. This is part of the Government’s reform of the arrangements for competition, consumer protection and consumer credit regulation.

The OFT’s work and responsibilities have been passed to a number of different bodies, including the Competition and Markets Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.

The Competition and Markets Authority

The Competition and Markets Authority started work on 1 April 2014 as the UK’s primary competition and consumer agency. Its role is to help stimulate economic growth and innovation and ensure consumers get a good deal.

Bringing together the Competition Commission with the competition and certain consumer functions of the OFT, the Competition and Markets Authority has a range of new responsibilities and powers. These include more stringent timetables for investigations, a stronger role in ensuring competition in regulated sectors for example financial services and energy, and a reform of the legal framework for prosecuting individuals involved in criminal cartel activity.

The Competition and Markets Authority has prioritised merger control, market studies and investigations, and enforcement of competition and consumer law. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has inherited from the OFT and Competition Commission more than a dozen live competition enforcement and consumer cases, over 30 merger cases and three on-going market investigations.

CMA Chief Executive Alex Chisholm said, “We want to help achieve a really dynamic economy in which firms are competing hard to satisfy customers with innovative and value-for-money products and services. We will use our powers, resources and ingenuity to promote competition, empower consumers and strike down illegal behaviour. The new CMA strategy, structure and legal framework will enable our highly professional staff to make well-selected and impactful interventions for the benefit of consumers and citizens across the UK.”

The Financial Conduct Authority

On 1 April 2014 the Financial Conduct Authority which regulates the financial services industry in the UK, became the regulator for the consumer credit industry under a new, different regulatory regime.

The Financial Conduct Authority will authorise firms to undertake credit-related activity, and enforce consumer credit law. Companies carrying out regulated consumer credit activities must follow certain rules about how they manage their businesses and treat their customers. These include rules made by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the requirements of the Consumer Credit Act (CCA) and secondary legislation. The FCA has the power to stop firms or individuals providing regulated financial services and they can issue fines for breaches of FCA rules and other legal requirements, including the CCA and the Financial Services and Markets Act (FSMA).

Most of the new Financial Conduct Authority rules came into force on 1 April 2014 however, the enforcement of some is subject to a six-month transitional period. This transition period does not affect the substance of the conduct standards that are in place from 1 April 2014. Non-compliance is not an option and the FCA has warned that it can and will enforce rule breaches from 1 April 2014 where appropriate.

The OFT’s anti-money laundering powers have also been passed to the Financial Conduct Authority.  

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have over 30 years experience and are acknowledged independently as leaders in this field. We can assist both individuals and businesses if:

  • You are worried about your FCA compliance
  • You are asked to assist with an CMA or FCA investigation
  • You think you may be charged with an offence
  • You have been charged with an offence by the CMA, FCA or other agency.

For a free 30 minute initial consultation call freephone 0800 916 9054 or contact us online and we will call you.