Welcome to the SCF website!

The Scottish Competition Forum brings together those with an interest in competition law and policy for topical discussion and debate. It is run in Scotland on a non profit-making basis and membership is free.

We host a number of events each year, alternating between Edinburgh and Glasgow, on a diverse range of topics of relevance to lawyers, businesses, economists, academics and students, and anyone else with an interest in effective competition in Scotland. Recent topics of discussion have included collective redress under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, risks and opportunities in overseas markets, and judicial review vs review “on the merits”.

Recent guest speakers have included:

  • Alex Chisholm, Chief Executive of the CMA,
  • Andreas Stephan, Professor of Competition Law at the University of East Anglia
  • Peter Freeman QC, Chairman of the Competition Appeal Tribunal,
  • Frederic Dupas, head of competition law at BT Global Services, and
  • Rameen Naylor-Ghobadian, barrister and legal lead on private actions reform at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

You can sign up to our mailing list by clicking here.

You can find out more about the SCF on our About Us page.

Upcoming SCF Event – Competition in the banking and financial sector, 2 years on

 

WHEN: Thursday, 13 October 2016 from 17:45 to 20:30 (BST) – Add to Calendar

 

 

WHERE: Maclay Murray & Spens LLP – Quartermile One, 15 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh, EH3 9EP – View Map

REGISTER

In May 2014 the Scottish Competition Forum, in partnership with the Europa Institute, held an event on the challenges and possibilities of competition law and policy in the banking and financial industry. At the time, the sector was still being seriously challenged by the aftermath of the 2008 of the financial crisis; it was also characterised by significant concentration, due to a number of important mergers that had been allowed to go ahead mainly for the purpose of protecting the integrity of the banking system. In addition, the then recent LIBOR scandal had unveiled very serious instances of cartel behaviour affecting very important interest rates, upon which much of the trade in currency and bonds revolves.

Two years on, these issues remain extremely relevant. While recent branch divestitures in the United Kingdom seem to have lessened the degree of concentration characterising the retail banking sector, significant questions remain unanswered as regards the stability of certain banks: recent stress tests have indicated that capital levels can still fall short of what is seen as “acceptable” by economists and regulators. Rivalry as regards retail banking services remains relatively limited, with customers being reluctant to “shop around”: in this respect the CMA’s review of retail banking has indicated that the established banks do not compete “hard enough” for consumers and has therefore called for a number of measures to be introduced to boost the ability and willingness of customers to switch to competitors. The CMA has also advocated for more objective and transparent information to be shared across the banking market, so that consumers can make informed decisions, on the one hand, and banks, especially new entrants and smaller ones, on the other hand, can use new technology to improve their offer of products and services to the public.

Banking and financial regulators have also cast light on the degree of competition characterising markets for “allied” services, such as, among others, information services that allow investment banking providers to operate efficiently, calling for greater rivalry to be ensured.

In light of the state of the industry, what is to be done? Is it correct to look at banking as “any other industry”, and therefore deal with these problems on the basis of “traditional” competition assessment patterns? How can the antitrust scrutiny of banking practices take into account concerns for stability without enjoining genuine rivalry based on product quality? To what extent can innovation in services’ provision act as a means of boosting competition in sectors allied to the financial industry, so that certain services, especially linked to investment banking, can be provided efficiently and with due consideration for consumer protection? And “what about Scotland”? Due to the importance of the banking and financial industry for the Scottish economy, what are the current implications of this state of affairs for growth and productivity in Edinburgh, Glasgow and beyond?

Join us on 13 October 2016 in the offices of Maclay, Murray and Spens LLP, in the Quartermile, Edinburgh for what promises to be a stimulating and informative event.

Confirmed speakers are:

  • Dr Heather Gibson, Bank of Greece
  • Dr Alistair Haig, University of Edinburgh
  • Mr Colin Garland, Competition and Markets Authority

The event will start at 6pm, with registration and coffee from 5.30pm.

Catriona Munro, Partner in the EU, Competition and Regulatory team at MMS, will chair the event, which will be followed by a wine reception.

SCF Event – Brexit: What next for competition policy? 25 August 2016

At this SCF event we welcomed over 70 attendees to the offices of MMS in Edinburgh’s Quartermile to discuss the implications of Brexit – and what comes next – for competition in Scotland.

Dr Tobias Lock, lecturer in EU Law and co-director of the Europa Institute at the University of Edinburgh, talked the audience through the Article 50 process and the options for the UK’s relationship with the EU post-Brexit. His presentation also touched on what parts of UK law would – and would not – be affected.

Professor Andreas Stephan from the University of East Anglia then gave a presentation on the implications of all of this for competition law specifically. Much will depend on the relationship the UK has with the EU in the future, but there is unlikely to be substantial change to the substantive law on competition issues, both because the principles are embedded and consistency with the EU assists with legal certainty. There may, however, be further uncertainty surrounding the UK government’s new approach to industrial strategy.

Peter Freeman QC, Chairman of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, discussed the implications for private enforcement of competition law – jurisdiction, choice of law and the Brussels and Lugano conventions. The major uncertainty going forward is likely to be the UK’s attractiveness and convenience as a forum for bringing private damages actions.

Michael Dean, partner and head of the EU, competition and regulatory department at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP, rounded off the event with a presentation focused on the public enforcement of competition law. Brexit will undoubtedly complicate matters,not least in relation to legal privilege, though the more immediate concern may be the need to do some “nation building” in the UK, as policy and enforcement bodies scale up to meet the challenges of performing roles that the EU has held for over four decades.

The event, as ever, ended with a spirited and lively discussion and an informal wine reception.

 

SCF Event – The Scottish Government’s Competition and Consumer Policy, 23 June 2016

At this SCF Lite event we discussed recent developments in the Scottish competition and consumer law landscape with representatives of the Scottish Government’s Consumer and Competition Policy Unit.

Under the Scotland Act 2016 the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government gained a variety of new powers in respect of competition and consumer policy. In particular, consumer advocacy and advice has now been devolved and the Scottish Government have a new power to act with the UK Secretary of State, in certain circumstances, to refer a market for investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The devolution of the management and operation of all reserved tribunals (e.g. the CAT) also opens up the possibility of a devolved CAT applying a distinctive Scottish approach in competition litigation.

The Scottish Government has started a process of engaging with stakeholders to develop a ‘Consumer and Competition Strategy for Scotland’ to ensure these new powers are used effectively.  This follows on from the work undertaken by the independent Working Group on Consumer and Competition Policy for Scotland, which published a report on the best arrangements for consumer protection and competition in Scotland which the Scottish Government have subsequently responded to.

There were two broad parts to this seminar. The first was focused on developments in consumer and competition policy in Scotland, in particular the aims of the Scottish Government and of its new “Consumer Scotland” body, the benefits the Scottish Government sees for consumers and businesses, and how it intends to tailor competition policy at a devolved level to focus on those issues that cause disproportionate detriment to Scottish consumers. The second session looked at the devolution of the CAT – and the options for change after devolution.

Our panel consisted of:

  • Chair: John Schmidt, Partner in the Regulation and Markets Team at Shepherd and Wedderburn LLP
  • Sheena Brown, Head of Consumer and Competition Policy Unit at the Scottish Government
  • Lorraine King, Head of Competition Policy at the Scottish Government.

 

SCF Event – Collective Redress under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, 7 October 2015

This seminar considered the potential for opt-out collective actions in competition cases and the new powers of the Competition Appeal Tribunal. In particular:

  • How the changes will affect Scottish consumers and Scottish companies and how they will complement broader developments in consumer protection from anti-competitive practices
  • Whether the new regime will result in significant growth in collective actions on behalf of consumers and whether the CAT will embrace and encourage opt-out claims
  • How these actions will be organised, by whom, and the options for funding them
  • What can we learn from other countries in the EU such as the Netherlands?

Our speakers were:

  • Rameen Naylor-Ghobadian, barrister and legal lead on private actions reform at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
  • Catriona Munro, Partner, Maclay Murray & Spens
  • Kate Wellington, Senior In-House Lawyer at consumer champion Which?
  • Marc Kuijper, BOEKEL
  • James Blick, Director of TheJudge

SCF Event -The risks and opportunities of competition law in overseas markets, 11 June 2015

This seminar considered how competition law can be utilised in overseas markets, in particular the use of competition law as a market access tool in regulated sectors or, in the case of developing markets, where there is an absence of regulation. This issue was considered from the perspective of both European markets (in particular France and Germany) and also in relation to markets further afield, with a particular focus on India.

Our guest speakers were:

  • Frederic Dupas, head of competition law at BT Global Services.
  • Gopal Jain, senior advocate.
  • Gordon Moir, Shepherd & Wedderburn

SCF Event -Full merits review vs JR review, 17 March 2015

Peter Freeman QC, Chairman of the Competition Appeal Tribunal, joined us to discuss the CAT’s powers of review. The CAT can in some areas review on the merits and in others only on a JR basis. In 2014, the government considered restricting the current merits jurisdiction, although this proposal appeared to have been dropped by the time of the Triennial Review in September.

The availability of a full merits review has been criticised on the grounds that it is argued to allow parties to withhold information from the CMA or other authority, in the expectation that the CAT will give the matter a full hearing.  On the other hand, is it not right and proper that a party upon whom a significant fine is imposed should have a full hearing, with cross examination of witnesses and all the disciplines that that brings along with it in terms of judicial decision-making?