Competition watchdog targets offenders north of the Border

Michael Grenfell, executive director for enforcement at the Competition and Markets Authority. Picture: Contributed

Michael Grenfell, executive director for enforcement at the Competition and Markets Authority. Picture: Contributed

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The UK’s competition watchdog is tightening the screw on Scottish firms, urging them to toe the line with the relevant parts of the law and come forward if they see any non-compliant activity.

The Competition & Markets Authority’s executive director for enforcement Michael Grenfell was north of the Border yesterday to speak to business representatives and advisers, emphasising the body’s remit as it ramps up its number of enforcement cases.

His visit comes after the regulator, which has offices in Edinburgh, found that 72 per cent of Scottish businesses said they knew competition law not very well, not at all well or had never heard of it, while a third thought retail price maintenance was allowed.

READ MORE: Pfizer fined £84m over ‘unfair’ epilepsy drug pricing

Grenfell said the CMA’s work at the sharper end involves imposing “very serious sanctions,” mainly large fines for companies, and in the most serious cases, imprisonment for individuals directly involved in anti-competitive behaviour.

The CMA last month revealed its highest-ever fine at £84.2 million, for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s role in over-charging the NHS, helping bring the regulator’s 2016 fine total to more than £140m, up from £1.2m in 2015.

Grenfell stressed that “it does not pay to break competition law”, with some people believing it concerns a “technical, esoteric area of commercial law that has nothing to do with them – people need to understand it matters a lot”.

The CMA is consulting on John Menzies’ deal to buy rival ASIG, with the Edinburgh-based logistics firm moving to alleviate concerns.

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