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UK

UK competition regulator should get beefed-up role - lawmaker report

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s competition regulator should have an enhanced role, becoming a new consumer champion, according to a government-commissioned report published on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A man crosses the road in the City of London financial district amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britain September 23, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley

The report, penned by John Penrose, a lawmaker of the ruling Conservative Party, said currently there is no strong, independent institution responsible for the overall progress of competition, consumer rights, supply-side reforms and productivity improvements.

“Given their importance for post-Brexit Britain’s economic growth and jobs, it’s an important gap in our current regime,” he said.

Penrose said the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should fulfil this role, “becoming a micro-economic sibling for the Bank of England’s well-established public macro-economic role”.

He said the CMA should publish an annual “State of Competition and Consumer Detriment” report which measures progress and problems in both these areas across all sectors of the economy, and all parts of the country.

The report also calls for the CMA’s civil consumer enforcement powers to be updated to bring them into line with its competition toolkit.

Penrose was invited by the government last September to conduct an independent review of UK competition policy, to see how it could be reformed for the digital age post-Brexit and COVID-19.

His “Power to the People” report outlines options to promote competition in the UK and to improve consumer confidence.

These include proposals to protect consumers from new kinds of rip-offs, and to ensure that they can expect fair treatment, particularly in online transactions.

UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government would consider the report and respond in due course.

The CMA welcomed the report and said it shared Penrose’s ambition for the competition and consumer regime.

“We agree that new legislation could make the competition and consumer protection regime stronger, swifter and more flexible so that we can deliver even more for UK consumers and businesses,” said CMA CEO Andrea Coscelli.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Jan Harvey, Kirsten Donovan

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