Andrew Tyrie, Chair of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), wrote to the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for BEIS, on 21 February 2019, outlining proposals for reform of the competition and consumer protection regimes of the CMA. The need for change comes from what is perceived as a growing gap between public expectations of markets and what competition authorities deliver, particularly in response to fast moving digital markets. There has been an increase in enforcement actions against online markets including against fake reviews, online gaming and online hotel booking. This article reflects on two prominent enforcement actions by the CMA, which demonstrate that it is using what forces it does have, and goes on to discuss the nature of the reform that Lord Tyrie is pushing for.
Online secondary ticketing market
The CMA conducted a compliance review into the secondary ticketing sector in 2016, and went on to launch an enforcement investigation in relation to suspected breaches of consumer protection law in the online secondary ticketing market. The CMA were particularly concerned about whether customers were getting the full range of information required by consumer protection law when buying tickets put up for resale. Following the investigation, the CMA took enforcement action against three secondary ticketing platforms. The offending companies all entered into an enforcement undertaking to make changes to the way they gather and display information in relation to tickets resold on their websites by midnight on the 17 January 2019. Another company, Viagogo, did not agree to undertake to make the changes that the CMA required of them. In response, the CMA used its statutory ability to issue civil court proceedings, to stop the consumer law breach. The CMA was successful in court and managed to secure an order requiring Viagogo to comply with consumer protection law by 17 January 2019, including in relation to the provision of ticket information to purchasers under the CRA.
Following the deadline, the CMA issued a statement to the effect that it had serious concerns that Viagogo had not complied with the terms of the court order in full and confirmed its intention to pursue further legal action if necessary. The CMA moved forwards with legal proceedings to find Viagogo in contempt of court. On 5 September 2019, the situation was diffused as the CMA stated that: "following continued pressure from the CMA, viagogo has now...