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Enterprise Act 2002

Investigation powers
Sections 109–117: Investigation powers

272.Sections 109-117 set out the CC’s powers to require persons to give evidence and to provide specified documents and information needed for the purposes of a merger inquiry. These sections replace the powers provided under section 85 FTA 1973. There are many similarities with the earlier investigatory powers. A key change, however, is that the CC’s FTA 1973 power to initiate contempt proceedings against persons who fail to comply with notices requiring the production of documents and information and the attendance of witnesses is replaced with a power for the CC itself to impose monetary penalties for non-compliance subject to a right of appeal to the CAT. The new power to impose monetary penalties is also available to the CC when it is carrying out market investigations. In addition, it is available to the CC when it is carrying out references concerning licence modifications and other matters under various sectoral enactments such as the Airports Act 1986 and the Electricity Act 1989. The necessary amendments to these sectoral enactments are made in Schedule 25 to the Act.

273.Section 109 gives the CC a power to serve notices requiring any person to attend to give evidence to the CC or to provide it with specified documents or information by specified dates. Any notice has to set out the possible consequence of a failure to comply with the notice.

274.Section 110 sets out the enforcement powers that the CC will have. It gives the CC a power to impose monetary penalties where it considers that a person has, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with a notice. This power replaces the current contempt sanction in section 85(7)–(8) FTA 1973: the existing provision gives the CC the power to apply to a court for a finding that a defaulter has failed without a reasonable excuse to comply with a notice; if the court does make such a finding, it can punish the defaulter as though he or she had been guilty of contempt of court.

275.The section retains a similar criminal offence to that in section 85(6) FTA 1973 for circumstances where a person intentionally alters, suppresses or destroys documents that he or she has been required to produce.

276.Subsection (9) provides that the CC should have regard to a statement of policy (see section 116) in deciding how to make use of the available powers.

277.Sections 111–116 set out how the power to impose a monetary penalty will operate. The CC will have discretion about whether to impose a fixed penalty or a daily rate penalty, or both. A daily rate penalty, once set, will accumulate for a period until: the requested information is provided, or the date of publication or handing over of the CC’s report on the reference or, where no report is published or handed over, the latest date on which the report could have been published or handed over. The Commission may determine an earlier date at its discretion.

278.The Secretary of State will determine by order the maximum fixed and daily rate penalties that the CC will be able to impose up to the maximum of £30,000 and £15,000 respectively set out in section 111(7). Before setting or altering the maximum penalties, the Secretary of State must consult the CC and such other persons as she considers appropriate. In each case, the actual level of penalty shall be an amount that the CC considers appropriate in all the circumstances of the case. Receipts from the exercise of the power will be paid into the Consolidated Fund.

279.Parties will have a right of appeal to the CAT against decisions to impose monetary penalties allowing for a full reconsideration of the matter. A party may appeal where it is aggrieved by the imposition of the penalty, the amount of the penalty, or the date by which the penalty is required to be paid. The requirement to pay a penalty is suspended until the case is determined. The CAT may cancel or reduce (not increase) the penalty or amend the date or dates by which penalties have to be paid.

280.Section 116 requires the CC to consult on and then to publish a statement of policy in relation to the enforcement of notices under section 109. It will include the considerations that will be relevant to determining the nature and amount of any monetary penalty. These considerations will be for the CC to identify, but it is envisaged that they could include:

  • the nature and gravity of the omission;

  • the size and financial resources of the defaulter;

  • the size of penalty that will encourage the party to co-operate;

  • the scale of costs and other disbenefits that will be incurred by the CC if an inquiry has to be extended to take account of information provided late.

281.Section 117 retains the existing section 93B FTA 1973 offence for the circumstances where a person supplies false or misleading information to the CC, the OFT or the Secretary of State. The penalty for this offence is imprisonment or a fine or both.

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