Clause 136 - Civil penalties etc in connection with competition matters

Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:04 pm ar 27 Mehefin 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Rushanara Ali Rushanara Ali Llafur, Bethnal Green and Bow

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

That schedule 8 be the Eighth schedule to the Bill.

That schedule 9 be the Ninth schedule to the Bill.

That schedule 10 be the Tenth schedule to the Bill.

Clause 137 stand part.

That schedule 11 be the Eleventh schedule to the Bill.

Clause 138 stand part.

Government amendments 40 to 44.

That schedule 12 be the Twelfth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology)

The final clauses in part 2 concern measures that cut across the Competition and Markets Authority’s competition tools. Clause 136 introduces schedules 8 to 10 to the Bill. The Competition Act 1998 and parts 3 and 4 of the Enterprise Act 2002 already allow the CMA to impose civil penalties for non-compliance with information requirements. The destruction of documents that have been required to be produced, and the provision of false or misleading information, are criminal offences, but schedule 8 introduces powers for that conduct to be subject to civil penalties. It also reforms existing civil penalties to ensure that the maximum penalties are set at an appropriate level.

Schedule 9 introduces powers enabling civil penalties to be imposed for breaches of competition remedies. Competition remedies are interim measures, commitments and directions under the Competition Act 1998 and interim measures, undertakings or orders under parts 3 and 4 of the Enterprise Act 2002. Schedules 8 and 9 also enable the Secretary of State and Ofcom to impose penalties if they are given false or misleading information in relation to their functions under the relevant regimes. They also give the Secretary of State the power to impose penalties to enforce compliance with remedies accepted or imposed in relation to mergers and markets with public interest considerations. Civil penalties will be applicable unless the party has a reasonable excuse, and that will be assessed case by case.

The maximum penalty for an undertaking or person who owns or controls an enterprise that is not complying with information requirements is 1% of the business’s worldwide turnover. Daily penalties of up to 5% of worldwide daily turnover will also be available in some cases while the non-compliance continues. For breach of remedies, the maximum penalty is set at 5% of worldwide turnover and daily penalties of up to 5% of worldwide daily turnover while the breach continues. The penalties imposed on other persons, who will generally be individuals, are capped at £30,000, or up to £15,000 daily while the breach continues. The CMA is required to produce statements of policy regarding the operation of its penalty powers. In doing so, it must consult the sector regulators and receive approval from the Secretary of State. Schedule 10 amends the legislation that gives the sector regulators their concurrent competition powers, so that they need not unnecessarily duplicate the work that they need to do to prepare statements of policy.

Clause 137 introduces schedule 11, which amends the Competition Act 1998 and parts 3 and 4 of the Enterprise Act 2002 to make express provision regarding the giving of information notices outside the United Kingdom. The schedule enables the CMA to give an information notice to a person who is the subject of a Competition Act 1998 investigation, or a person who is or has been a party to a merger review. The schedule also enables the CMA to give information notices to third parties with a defined UK connection. Compliance will be enforceable through the civil penalty regime. The schedule also amends provisions on methods of serving documents to reflect modern business practices; for example, it allows service of documents via email.

Government amendments 40 to 44 are technical drafting amendments to schedule 12. The schedule, which is introduced by clause 138, applies appropriate parliamentary procedures to new regulation-making powers created by the Bill, and makes other consequential and technical amendments. I commend the amendments to the Committee and hope that the clauses will stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy)

Labour supports the intention behind the provisions in this grouping. Of course there should be provisions about the attendance of witnesses, as outlined in clause 135. The same can be said about ensuring that the Bill has sufficient legal powers on civil penalties, should the need for them arise in the regime. The provisions in clause 136 and schedules 8 to 10 are adequate, and we support them. The same can be said for clause 137 and schedule 11, which make provisions regarding the service of documents and the extraterrestrial—sorry, extraterritorial; I know we are talking about digital markets, but we have not reached that far yet—application of notices under part 1 of the Competition Act 1998 and parts 3 and 4 of the Enterprise Act 2002. Of course those laws must work in alignment with the intentions of the Bill. Clause 138, Government amendments 40 to 44 and schedule 12 are all sensible, and part of a rigorous procedure, so we do not oppose them.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 136 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules 8 to 10 agreed to.

Clause 137 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 11 agreed to.

Clause 138 ordered to stand part of the Bill.