HC Deb 28 March 2003 vol 402 cc33-4WS
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Miss Melanie Johnson)

The substantive competition and consumer provisions of the Enterprise Act (Parts 1 to 9) will come fully into force on Friday 20 June 2003. This includes

  • A new power for designated consumer bodies to bring supercomplaints to the OFT which will then have a duty to respond within 90 days.
  • A quicker, cheaper ability for consumers to bring damages claims in cases of competition infringement to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT). Groups of consumers will also be able to be represented by designated consumer bodies.
  • A streamlined approach to third party appeals in Competition Act cases, allowing third parties to go direct to the CAT.
  • A new merger regime, giving the competition authorities independence in the vast majority of new merger investigations.
  • A new market investigations regime, again with the OFT and Competition Commission now taking the lead in deciding what action to take in respect of markets that are not working.
  • A new criminal offence for individuals who dishonestly engage in hard-core cartels. These individuals will be liable to prosecution and imprisonment for up to five years and a leniency regime will encourage whistle-blowing by cartel members.
  • A new ability for the OFT and sector regulators to seek disqualification of directors who have been responsible for breaches of competition law.
  • The extension of the Stop Now Orders regime to protect consumers from traders who do not meet their legal obligations.
  • New provisions for the disclosure of specified information obtained by a public authority under certain consumer and competition legislation.

We are finalising (subject to Parliamentary approval) the content of the necessary secondary legislation and guidance, and we will be putting this material onto the website over the next few days.

The newspaper merger regime will remain in place until later in the year since it is being updated by the Communications Bill. The separate water merger regime will be commenced once the Water Bill currently before Parliament has clarified the scope of the regime.