Section 371: OFCOM’s functions under the Competition Act 1998
784.This section is analogous to the existing provisions of the Competition Act 1998 giving concurrent jurisdiction to other sectoral regulators such as the Director General of Telecommunications. This section gives OFCOM concurrent jurisdiction with the OFT to apply and enforce Part 1 of the Competition Act 1998, with the exception of section 38 (1) to (6) and section 51. This means that OFCOM will be able to exercise almost all of the functions of the OFT under Part 1 of the 1998 Act in so far as they relate to activities connected with communications matters. Subsection (8) gives OFCOM concurrent jurisdiction with the OFT with respect to certain transitional provisions of the 1998 Act.
*Section 38 of the Competition Act 1998 requires the OFT to prepare and publish guidance as to the appropriate amount of any penalty under Part 1 of the Act. Section 51 allows the OFT to make rules (currently in the form of the Competition Act 1998 (Director’s Rules) Order 2000, SI 2000 No. 293) setting out the procedures to be followed by the OFT, the sectoral regulators and third parties under Part 1 of the Act.
*Under subsection (4), the expression activities connected with communications matters includes the supply and export of apparatus used for providing or making available electronic communications networks or services and the production or acquisition of any such apparatus for supply or export.
785.The 1998 Act is based on Articles 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty. It contains two prohibitions: first, of agreements which prevent, restrict or distort competition and which may affect trade within the United Kingdom (‘the Chapter I prohibition’); secondly, of conduct which amounts to an abuse of a dominant position in a market which may affect trade within the United Kingdom (‘the Chapter II prohibition’). The 1998 Act is generally applied and enforced by the OFT. However, in a number of regulated industries such as telecommunications, gas, electricity, water and sewerage and railway services, functions under the Act are carried out by the sectoral regulator concurrently with the OFT. Examples of the functions in respect of which OFCOM will have concurrent jurisdiction include:
to investigate possible infringements of the Chapter I or Chapter II prohibitions, either on their own initiative or in response to complaints;
to impose financial penalties and/or to give directions to bring an infringement of either of the prohibitions to an end; and
to issue general advice and information on how the Act applies to the communications sector.
786.OFCOM and the OFT will consult with each other before a decision is made as to who will deal with a case in respect of which there is concurrent jurisdiction. Formal arrangements for consultation are set out in regulations made under the Competition Act 1998. In general, anti-competitive agreements or abusive conduct that relate to activities connected with communications matters will be dealt with by OFCOM (unless the OFT is better placed to do so). Where it is unclear which regulator has jurisdiction, the matter will be referred to, and determined by, the Secretary of State. However, no objection may be made against anything done by OFCOM on the grounds that it should have been done by the OFT.
*Further provision for the co-ordination of the performance by the OFT and sectoral regulators of concurrent functions in contained in the Competition Act 1998 (Concurrency) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000 No. 260). The OFT and each regulator are also represented on the Concurrency Working Party which was formed in 1997 to ensure full co-ordination between regulators and the OFT and to ensure consistency of approach to casework.
787.Section 44 of the Competition Act 1998 makes it an offence, directly or indirectly, to provide false or misleading information to the OFT. As subsection (3) of this section provides that references to the OFT in Chapter 1 of the Competition Act 1998 are generally to be read as including OFCOM, section 44 of the Competition Act 1998 will also apply in relation to information provided to OFCOM in connection with their exercise of concurrent jurisdiction under that Act.