Ofgem has decided to transfer its Competition Act investigation into third party intermediaries/price comparison websites to the Competition and Markets Authority (the CMA).
The parties have been informed of the decision of both Ofgem and the CMA to proceed with the transfer. The case transfer is effective from 14 June 2016.
The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether the parties under investigation have breached the Competition Act by agreeing behaviour relating to online keyword search advertising.
Ofgem itself procured search advertising during the period under investigation in the course of publishing advice and information to promote the interests of consumers, one of our statutory functions.
Ofgem became aware of communications between Ofgem staff and representatives of some of the parties under investigation encouraging those parties to change their behaviour in relation to bidding on search advertising keywords relevant to Ofgem. These communications took place before the investigation was opened.
Ofgem considers that this could delay the progress of the case, for example if parties were to call into question Ofgem’s impartiality in continuing with the case. The CMA has the same powers to investigate this case as Ofgem, so in the circumstances we therefore considered the CMA was better placed to continue with the investigation. We now provide appropriate training to all staff so that these circumstances do not arise again.
Further details are set out in the attached formal notice of transfer.