26 October 2021

The Office for the Internal Market – What is it?

Written by Nicole McAlorum

The Competition and Markets Authority (the “CMA”) launched the Office for the Internal Market (the “OIM”) on 21 September 2021.

The OIM’s objective is to support the effective operation of the UK internal market using its economic and technical expertise, following the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The OIM’s functions are set out in the UK Internal Market Act 2020 (Act). The Act aims to “protect businesses, jobs and livelihoods” by ensuring there are no “harmful new barriers to trade” across the UK.

The OIM’s responsibilities include providing independent, technical and non-binding advice to the Scottish Government, Welsh Government, Northern Ireland Executive and UK Government (Governments) on regulations or regulatory proposals that may impact the effective operation of the UK internal market. It is also tasked with monitoring, assessing and publishing reports on the health of the UK internal market, including trends and developments across sectors and regions. In addition, it enables Governments to seek advice and/or reports on the impact that specific laws, rules and regulations are having (or may have) on the UK internal market.

The OIM is keen to engage with businesses, consumers, professionals and other stakeholders about their experiences of operating across the UK Internal Market. To function effectively, it has consequently created a digital reporting service. The service enables businesses to share their experiences and concerns regarding the operation of the UK internal market. Examples include difficulties using professional qualifications awarded in one part of the UK in other parts of the UK, or where producers from one part of the UK are paying more to meet product standards in another part of the UK in order to sell there.

The information gathered from businesses by the OIM will contribute to the first State of the UK Internal Market report (planned for spring 2022) and may provide intelligence for any discretionary reviews that it elects to carry out.

To assist the OIM fulfil its responsibilities and functions, it has powers under the Act to issue information notices requiring any person / organisation to provide it with documents or information and powers to levy financial penalties where requirements are not complied with.

To coincide with its launch, the OIM has published: (i) guidance setting out how the OIM will carry out its functions; and (ii) a policy statement providing details on how it will approach and enforce its information gathering powers.

If you have any queries, or for further advice, please contact a member of the Carson McDowell Competition team.

*This information is for guidance purposes only and does not constitute, nor should be regarded, as a substitute for taking legal advice that is tailored to your circumstances.

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