Verdict delayed on catering equipment probe

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has delayed making a decision on whether to proceed with an investigation into anti-competitive practices in the catering equipment market until later this month.

The CMA had originally planned to announce its next course of action in December 2014, but has now confirmed that the process is taking longer than it expected.

It said additional time was needed to “analyse and review responses to information requests” relating to the investigation.

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Since launching the probe into suspected breaches of competition law in August 2014, the CMA is understood to have conducted an extensive information-gathering exercise that has involved the issuance of information requests from parties under investigation.

The nature of this exercise means that the process of making a decision on the investigation has “been put back by around a month”, the CMA said just before Christmas.

There has been strong speculation in the market about the identity of the companies under investigation, but the CMA’s policy is generally to stay tight-lipped on the finer details while an investigation is ongoing.

Its ‘case information’ summary of the investigation remains the same as when the case was opened last year.

It reads: “On 28 August 2014, the CMA launched an investigation into suspected breaches of competition law in the commercial catering equipment sector. The investigation is under Chapter I of the Competition Act 1998 and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

“This case is at an early stage and the CMA has not reached a view as to whether there is sufficient evidence of an infringement of competition law for it to issue a statement of objections to any of the parties under investigation. Not all cases result in the CMA issuing a statement of objections. As a result, it would not be appropriate at present to include any further estimates of the timing of any later investigative steps at this stage.”

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