Watchdog says ruling needed in wake of increase of remote working

The Competition and Markets Authority has successfully challenged a ruling which said it couldn’t be given a warrant to search a domestic property as part of a cartel investigation.

The High Court said the the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) “erred in law” when it refused to grant the CMA a warrant to enter the property.

Last October, the CMA applied for warrants to search business and domestic premises as part of its investigation into suspected anti-competitive conduct regarding the supply of chemical admixtures for use in the construction industry.

While the CAT granted warrants authorising the CMA to search three business premises in England and Scotland, it refused the warrant regarding the domestic property.

Sarah Cardell CMA

CMA chief Sarah Cardell said it needed to be able to enter domestic premises, given the increase in remote working

The CMA said it was “concerned that the CAT’s decision would damage its ability to gather the necessary evidence to effectively investigate and enforce against secret cartels” and applied for a judicial review at the end of last year.

It added: “The High Court agreed with the CMA that the CAT had made an error in its application of the law – namely, that it was incorrect to state that specific evidence of a ‘propensity’ to destroy electronic or physical documents was always required for a domestic search warrant, and that the CAT’s judgment should not therefore be followed in future cases.”

CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell added: “With the increase in remote working – and electronic communication – it’s essential that we are able to search domestic premises to secure evidence of potential breaches of competition law where appropriate to do so.”

The CMA, which last year fined 10 demolition firms £60m for their involvement in a cartel, is investigating eight housebuilders over alleged anti-competitive behaviour.