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UK watchdog chair says lax regulators are costing consumers

Lord Andrew Tyrie, the chair of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has called for increased powers for regulators to crack down on technology firms ripping off consumers, citing the watchdog’s recent work cracking down on bad practice in the online ticketing market.

According to the Financial Times, Tyrie claimed regulators have been too weak when acting on digital mergers, stating that there had “probably been underenforcement of merger control in digital markets”.

Last year, Tyrie demanded new powers to strengthen the watchdog’s consumer-protection credentials to allow it to autonomously punish companies, and in recent months has seen the CMA take action against operators such as Viagogo and StubHub.

Tyrie, a former Conservative MP, said: “I can’t stress how important it is for us to grasp that this affects not just those considered vulnerable on traditional criteria, but the vast majority of ordinary people.”

He added that the, “unprecedented challenge of digital will indeed necessitate a strengthening of both competition and consumer protection powers”.

Last week, the CMA launched a “behavioural hub” to help boost its understanding of consumer issues. Andrea Coscelli, the watchdog’s chief executive, said the move has been designed to strengthen its role in holding companies, such as ticketing firms, that rip off consumers accountable.

The new unit will draw on economics, data science and behavioural science to enhance its understanding of consumer issues.

Most recently, the CMA warned ticketing firm StubHub that it could be breaking UK consumer law due to issues with the information provided on its website. As part of regular monitoring, the CMA said it is concerned that the firm is not complying with commitments it made to clean up its site following a consumer law investigation.