LONDON Jan 17 Britain's competition watchdog
will review changes it has ordered to prise open an accounting
sector dominated by four big players after the European Union
agreed a tougher set of reforms.
Britain's Competition Commission decided in October the
country's top 350 companies must put their book-keeping out to
tender at least once a decade, to shake up a market dominated by
KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte.
Since then, the EU agreed in December to go a step further
and force listed companies across the 28-country bloc from 2016
to actually change their accountant every 10 years.
The UK watchdog had initially backed mandatory switching but
its final report was watered down.
Both sets of reforms are part of a regulatory clampdown
following the 2007-09 financial crisis, because auditors had
given banks a clean bill of health just before many had to be
rescued by taxpayers.
"We are keen to follow the principles of better regulation,
including by ensuring that our orders do not contradict or
duplicate EU regulation," Britain's Competition Commission said
in a statement on Friday.
"We anticipate further rounds of consultation on our revised
orders in the third quarter of 2014 and a commencement date in
A key clash between the UK and EU reforms is on the very
different timetables for phasing in the changes.
"We hope that the Competition Commission takes this
opportunity to consider the interplay between their own
transition proposals and those of the EU legislators," said
Gilly Lord, UK head of regulatory affairs at PwC.
"Complexity for businesses would be reduced if these two
regimes were aligned," Lord said.
David Barnes, head of public policy at Deloitte, said the
audit market faced a "potential quantum" of changes and welcomed
efforts to align their introduction.
Other differences between the two sets of rules include a
planned UK ban on a bank insisting that one of the Big Four
accountants must be hired as book-keeper if a company wants a
loan. The EU law will introduce a broader curb and prohibit any
restriction on choice of auditor.
Next week the EU will begin formal votes to rubber-stamp