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Oxera advises Compare the Market before the Competition Appeal Tribunal

European economics and finance consultancy Oxera submitted economic expert reports and testified during the trial to assist the Tribunal in its decision-making. The appeal resulted in the overturning of the Competition and Markets Authority’s Decision that Compare the Market’s historical use of wide most-favoured-nation clauses in home insurance was anti-competitive.

The Tribunal’s judgment was based on its findings that the market definition adopted by the CMA was substantially wrong and that the CMA had presented no reliable evidence to conclude that the existence of the wMFNs had resulted in any adverse effect on either insurance premiums or commissions charged by price comparison websites. As a result, the £17.9m penalty that the CMA had imposed on Compare the Market was overturned.

Dr Gunnar Niels gave expert evidence in relation to the conceptual approach to market definition in the context of two-sided platforms, and Helen Ralston submitted expert evidence on the effects of Compare the Market’s wMFNs, as well as quantitative evidence on market definition.

Dr Gunnar Niels was described by the Tribunal as being ‘of great help’ with ‘patience, courtesy and formidable expertise’, and Helen Ralston as being ‘a formidable witness, clearly master of her discipline’.

Dr Gunnar Niels and Helen Ralston were supported by Oxera Senior Consultants Andreea Antuca, Simona Castellini and Tamrat Shone.

Helen Ralston said:

‘This is an important ruling on a hot topic in UK and European competition law. The updated UK Vertical Agreements Block Exemption Order (the VABEO 2022) that came into force on 1 June 2022 lists wMFNs as a hardcore restriction, not able to benefit from the vertical block exemption. Similarly, the EU draft Vertical Block Exemption Regulation positions wMFNs as an excluded restriction.

It was fantastic to work on this case with Daniel Beard QC and Alison Berridge from Monckton Chambers; the Linklaters team led by Nicole Kar, Tom Cassels and Haidee Barratt; and the TLT Solicitors team led by Miles Trower, Richard Collie and Molly Efford.’