OFT and Competition Commission likely to merge

BBC business editor Robert Peston on a possible OFT and CC merger.

Unless you run a big, takeover-hungry company or you're a competition lawyer, what follows probably may not interest you a great deal, though in theory it's relevant to your future prosperity.

I've discovered that a merger of the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission - the two British regulatory bodies charged with promoting competition and biffing anti-competitive behaviour - is on the cards.

In fact, the merger of the OFT and CC would have been announced by the previous government last autumn. But just as it was about to be unveiled, the then Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, got cold feet and persuaded the previous chancellor, Alistair Darling, to call the whole thing off.

My understanding is that the coalition government is likely to revive the nuptials of OFT and CC.

And the point of doing so would be to eliminate duplication between the two organisations and streamline the two-stage process of determining the competitive impact of proposed takeovers, or market structures or assorted business practices.

In theory, at a time when all pubic-sector bodies are under pressure to make substantial savings, crunching together the OFT and CC to make them more efficient would appear to make sense.

However for reasons that are unclear to me, many competition lawyers don't seem to think it's a good idea.

I don't suppose their wariness could be related somehow to the magnitude of the fees they can earn from the current twin-headed hydra of competition assessment, regulation and enforcement.

You can keep up with the latest from business editor Robert Peston by visiting his blog on the BBC News website.

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