Page 1: The Office of Fair Trading (OFT)
The OFT is an independent organisation set up by the government and is responsible for ensuring that markets work well for customers. By law it is accountable for its actions and aims to be open, fair and transparent in its decisions. The OFT states:
'Our goal is to make markets work well for consumers. Markets operate well when businesses work in open and vigorous competition with each other.'
The OFT's powers come from consumer and competition legislation, e.g. The Competition Act 1998, designed to ensure that businesses compete fairly; it outlaws certain types of anti-competitive behaviour. The OFT has strong powers to investigate businesses suspected of anti-competitive behaviour, and can impose tough penalties on wrongdoers. The OFT was re-organised under The Enterprise Act 2002 and now has a board comprising a chairman and six other members (including five non-executive directors).
The Enterprise Act makes operating anti-competitive cartels a criminal offence, for which directors can be fined and/or imprisoned. Directors can also be banned from company management for up to fifteen years for engaging in anti-competitive activities. The Act allows for recognised consumer bodies to make super-complaints to the OFT when they believe that features of a particular market are significantly harmful to consumer interests.