Trading watchdog launches ICT supply inquiry

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REGULATORS have launched a probe into the supply of computer services to the public sector.

The Office of Fair Trading called yesterday for suppliers and purchasers of information and communication technology (ICT) goods and services “to get in touch about their experiences”.

It said: “There have been many reviews of the procurement of ICT by the public sector yet few studies have examined whether aspects of the supply side of the market inhibit competition. The OFT’s review aims to address this imbalance.”

Clive Maxwell, the OFT’s chief executive, said: “Given the vital role that this technology plays in the delivery of public services and the cost to the taxpayer, the OFT believes it is important to explore whether there are any restrictions on competition.

“We want to hear both from industry suppliers and public sector users about how competition in this market works, any problems that they have experienced, and how it could be made to work better.”

The OFT said ICT played a key role in the delivery of public services, including schools, the police and hospitals. “It is also an important part of the UK economy, with the top 20 software and IT services providers earning about £10.4 billion a year in revenue from the public sector,” the regulator added.

The review will cover areas such as the number of ICT providers, their market share, whether public sector users face high barriers to switching suppliers, and if “some suppliers seek to limit the inter-operability and use of competitor systems with their own”.