The CMA to ease on business collaboration during COVID-19


The Competition and Markets Authority has outlined that over the next few months as the business and finance sector deals with COVID-19, its focus will be on safeguarding UK consumers from the adverse consequences of the pandemic.

The markets regulator will shift its focus away from competition law enforcement, which it acknowledged could impede necessary cooperation between businesses to deal with the current crisis and future impacts, ensuring the UK a  security of supply in essential products and services.

Competition benefits consumers by spurring businesses to offer lower prices, better service and higher quality. Competition law exists to make sure that businesses do not limit competition to the detriment of consumers. 

The crisis has seen diverse businesses supporting national and local efforts to tackle the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, from providing essential goods and services to consumers, to ensuring key workers can carry out their important tasks in getting the country through this crisis.

The CMA has emphasised it understands that this may involve coordination between competing businesses. It wants to provide reassurance that, provided that any such coordination is undertaken solely to address concerns arising from the current crisis and does not go further or last longer than what is necessary, the CMA will not take action against it.

The group also underlined it will not tolerate conduct which opportunistically seeks to exploit the crisis. Therefore, this guidance also explains when the CMA will take enforcement action to prevent consumer detriment.

Issuing guidelines, it stated: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. So too may the issues faced by businesses as they participate in efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, and also the types of exploitative behaviour that cause consumer detriment. The CMA will continue to monitor the current situation and may update this guidance as and when it becomes necessary to do so in order to provide maximum clarity and certainty for businesses.

“This guidance should not be interpreted as applying to any matter other than those relating strictly to, or arising directly out of, the COVID-19 pandemic. The CMA will give notice on its webpage withdrawing this guidance when it considers that it is no longer necessary.”