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An analysis of the current state of the Competition/Antitrust legal market

Discover key factors and developments that have affected the Competition and Antitrust legal market in the UK.

Published on 15 June 2022
Written by Christian Clare
Christian Clare

How has Brexit impacted Competition/Antitrust

The results of hundreds of interviews conducted by the Chambers UK research team with well-placed sources reveal that the negative impact of Brexit on the market is not as profound as some feared.

Instead, many lawyers report increased activity and major successes in light of the changes.

Brexit and growing scrutiny on the likes of digital markets and sustainability mean that regulators are looking to revolutionise their approach.

The UK continues to be viewed as a major player in the competition sphere, and so law firms must be ready to step up to these new challenges.

The current state of Competition/Antitrust in the UK

With Brexit paving the way for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to become its own independent regulator in the UK, lawyers are quick to discuss its increased aggression in relation to its intervention in merger clearance.

In its attempt to make a mark on the global stage, the CMA is subjecting mergers to increased inspection as it attempts to strengthen its enforcement powers, thus requiring firms to instruct clients more proactively on new regulations.

Such changes have also brought about parallel merger filings before the CMA and other international regulators, like the European Commission. Consequently, many firms seek to bolster their presence in London and Brussels in order to properly tackle this increased workload, with many practitioners benefiting from dual qualification.

In conjunction with its more interventionist approach, the CMA has set its sights on technology giants like Meta and Alphabet through the establishment of its Digital Markets Unit, which seeks to target and regulate these businesses more effectively.

The types of matters it seeks to inspect include major technology companies’ potential abuse of their dominant position through a greater access to data.

Merricks v Mastercard: UK Competition Appeal Tribunal

On the litigation front, following the Supreme Court’s judgment on Merricks v Mastercard, law firms indicate that a floodgate has been opened that is allowing many class actions and collective proceedings to progress before the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT), especially concerning the activity of – once again – the tech giants. They expect that this will increase further.

A significant new piece of legislation

2022 sees the introduction of the National Security and Investment Act (NSI), which has established a new workstream for many firms. What is the UK National Security and Investment Act? It functions alongside conventional merger filings to ensure that any transactions that may pose particular national security threats are properly assessed and controlled.

As a retroactive piece of legislation, many clients are finding that their previous deals require further examination before regulators.

Sustainability and competition law

Another area that is increasingly being scrutinised is the importance of sustainability in the competition space. While not yet creating a separate workstream, lawyers report that this topic across the legal sector is raising interesting questions with respect to how the CMA regulates mergers that have significant environmental benefits or risks.

Discussions include whether the CMA should take a more liberal approach to the mergers that may bring about a useful reduction in climate change. However, some firms worry that companies may manipulate this apparent leniency by misrepresenting environmental benefits in order to clear certain mergers. As a result, the CMA must grapple with how to properly regulate this area without blocking deals that may offer genuine sustainability agreements.

Chambers UK Coverage of Competition/Antitrust legal market

Chambers recognises the ever-evolving practice area of Competition/Antitrust and in its most recent guide has continued to carefully analyse and understand those law firms and lawyers currently operating in this field.

Based on market-leading research on the top legal professionals and practices, Chambers UK provides the legal market’s most comprehensive rankings and editorial commentary on the best law firms and lawyers. Chambers’ provides rankings for the most trusted lawyers and law firms for Competition Law in London, The Regions, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Chambers UK Legal Topics Asset showing London Bridge and the Shard building

Chambers UK

With the most comprehensive view of the UK legal market and the top law firms and lawyers working, the Chambers UK guide is the market leading resource for those looking to buy legal services.