Although competition law has occupied a place in the body of English law for many centuries, modern statutory competition policy first emerged in the aftermath of the Second World War. From the point of view of present laws, the statutes then introduced lacked the ability to deal with the prevalent market situations and had a faulty enforcement mechanism. The competition regime in UK got a major push only after the passing of the Competition Act 1998 and the Enterprise Act 2000. The doctrine of restraint of trade has played a major role in harmonizing freedom of trade and freedom to contract. The first statute to be brought into force was the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices (Inquiry and Control) Act in the year 1948. The passing of Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1956 resulted in a two-fold system comprising of restrictive activities and monopolistic activities. As time passed new acts were incorporated to fulfill the challenges posed by the market. The basic objective behind the passing of Competition Act 1998 was to shape the domestic law along the lines of EC law. This was done by introducing provisions, which dealt with, prohibition of anti competitive agreements and abuse of dominant position.
Section 2 of the 1998 Act is similar to Article 81(1) of EC law. Section 3 excludes certain types of agreement – such as mergers, which come under the ambit of the Fair Trading Act 1973. Section 50 provides for the ad hoc exclusion of land agreements and vertical agreements. Section 4 provides for the granting by the Office of Fair Trading of ‘individual exemptions’ from the prohibition where conditions set out in section 9 are satisfied by the agreements in question.
Section 18 of the 1998 Act incorporates Chapter II i.e. prohibition on the abuse of dominant position. The anti-competitive provision in the Competition Act 1980 made way for this general prohibition. The power to investigate structural monopolies by means of market investigation was incorporated in the Enterprise Act 2002.
Sectoral regulators and OFT were given power to seize documents, enter and conduct search on premises under the Competition Act 1998. The falsification, destruction and failure to provide information are all made criminal offences. The authorities have the power to impose provisional measures to avoid competition harm during an inquiry. If they find an infringement of one or the other prohibition, they can give orders requiring it to be brought to an end. Such a finding may also draw a fine of up to 10% of turnover subject to a three-year limit. Decisions of the OFT or sectoral regulators can be appealed to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, and from there on to the Court of Appeal.
Abuse of Dominance under the UK regime
The competition Act 1998 prevents acts which amount to abuse of dominance. These prohibitions are enshrined in section 18(1) of the competition act, which comes under chapter 2 of the Act. The modernization regulation i.e. EC Regulation 1/2003...