Office of Rail and Road
Next in our series of legal blogs, we’re taking a look at our role in enforcing competition legislation.
Ever wondered about ORR's role as an enforcer of competition legislation, in conjunction with the Competition and Markets Authority (a ‘concurrent competition enforcer’) for the rail sector? And specifically about the use of commitments in competition investigations?
ORR is one of a number of sectoral regulators that has powers to enforce competition law concurrently with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
What that means is that (here is the techy part), since 2014 when the CMA was created, under s.67 of the Railways Act 1993 we can run market studies and market investigations using powers derived from Part 4 of the Enterprise Act 2002, and we have wide information gathering powers which allow us to do so.
These apply to the supply of services relating to railways. We have broad scope for exercising these concurrent competition powers.
We can also investigate companies for breach of the Chapter I and Chapter II prohibitions under the Competition Act 1998.
Chapter I prohibits agreements between undertakings that have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the UK. Chapter II prohibits the abuse of a dominant position within a market that may affect trade within the United Kingdom.
We have issued some guidance on how we use our competition powers. Within this there are a number of options available to us in terms of decision-making during a case. One of the options we have is to accept binding commitments from a party under investigation.
You tend to hear about commitments quite a lot, especially in competition cases run by sector regulators. So let’s look into this option in a bit more detail.
What are these commitments?
These are binding promises given by the party under investigation in relation to its future conduct. The party will promise to do, or not to do, one or a number of things, and in turn, the regulator will drop its case against them.
When considering accepting commitments in a competition investigation, we follow a formal procedure that includes running a public consultation. And we have to be satisfied that the commitments offered by the party under investigation address the competition concerns which we have.
Interestingly, though, the party does not admit any wrongdoing by offering the commitments. And we are not concluding that we have found any competition breaches when making a decision to accept commitments. But they do offer a useful and practical way for competition authorities to rectify potential problems within a market in many circumstances.
Case study - Rail Assessment Centre Forum
We recently concluded a competition investigation in commitments. This investigation was opened in March 2021 on the basis that we had reasonable grounds to suspect that the Rail Assessment Centre Forum (RACF), an organisation which provides psychometric assessment centres for train drivers across the rail industry, had breached Chapter I of the Competition Act 1998 in relation to its rules of membership.
The commitments were offered by RACF and provided an efficient way of addressing our competition concerns and bringing the case to a close. This is an effective way for regulators to make use of sometimes limited resources, whilst also ensuring that outcomes for consumers in markets are prioritised, and competition continues to be enforced effectively.
Latest News from
Office of Rail and Road
Rail regulator calls for improvement after Avanti’s timetable recovery plan stalls24/01/2023 14:15:00
Passengers attempting to access timetable information and book tickets for Avanti West Coast services have faced frustrating and enduring problems in recent months.
Average traffic delays remain lower than before pandemic, in latest roads report23/01/2023 10:25:00
The Office of Rail and Road’s 2021-22 ‘Benchmarking National Highways report’ confirms that average delays on the Strategic Road Network (SRN) increased in all regions of England as traffic levels recovered. However, levels of delay remained below those before the pandemic.
Regulator tells rail industry to ensure cancellation statistics match the passenger experience20/01/2023 12:10:00
The Office of Rail and Road has written to the rail industry outlining the need to change how they record ‘pre-cancellations’ and to introduce a more passenger-friendly and transparent way of working when making late changes to services.
Passenger rail service complaints13/01/2023 09:20:00
Quarterly statistics on the volume and cause of complaints made to train operating companies. This data forms part of ORR's core consumer data requirements from train operating companies; more information can be found at ORR core data
Driver sentenced to eight months imprisonment for causing crash11/01/2023 09:20:00
Mr Mark Andrew Hubble has been found guilty of breaching Section 7a of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and sentenced to eight months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, following a prosecution brought by the Office of Rail and Road.
Safety on the Strategic Road Network is improving, but National Highways must deliver better performance from its Smart Motorways technology16/12/2022 15:15:15
The Office of Rail and Road says National Highways is on course to achieve its overall safety target for the Strategic Road Network in England.
Rail industry finances showed signs of recovery in the latest financial year29/11/2022 12:25:00
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) yesterday published its latest Rail Industry Finance (UK) statistical report.
London Waterloo is top of the stops again, but overall numbers are down on pre-pandemic levels24/11/2022 14:15:00
London Waterloo regained its status as the most used railway station although its total number of passenger entries and exits is less than half of the number from two years ago (April 2019 to March 2020).