Regulatory

CMA: Pandemic Profiteering – take aim then hesitate

The initial shockwaves of the COVID-19 pandemic, declared in March, prompted authorities across Europe and in America to take urgent steps to protect consumers. Such measures included cracking down on anti-competitive behaviour and temporarily relaxing rules which might otherwise be detrimental to the public interest. Two months on, as countries around the world cautiously ease ‘lockdown’ measures, disturbing stories continue to emerge of competition law abuse, including profiteering on essential products, highlighting significant gaps in existing regulatory powers. While some countries have introduced tough temporary powers, the UK now seems to be hesitating.

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Data protection – another COVID-19 casualty?

With more than one third of the planet’s population currently under some form of COVID-19 related restriction, the wider impact of ‘lockdown’ is becoming apparent. In the UK alone, the wider human cost of this necessary measure has been staggering: two million routine NHS operations cancelled; close to one million applications for universal credit benefit in the final two weeks of March; and calls to a national domestic abuse helpline 49% above average. The global economic picture is equally bleak. The IMF calculates the world economy will shrink by 7% in 2020, with trade levels sinking dramatically and national borrowing set to rise to levels not seen in peacetime. In the face of such dire prospects, for a relaxation of lockdown have grown increasingly vocal. But with a vaccine still 12-18 months off, governments around the world are weighing the apparent trade-off between easing restrictions and maintaining public health.

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