Outgoing chief of the competition watchdog Andrea Coscelli has said he still has “anxiety” about the UK’s regulatory position.
Speaking on law firm Cleary Gottlieb’s new podcast, Coscelli praised the Competition Market Authority’s (CMA) approach to merger control, but was more critical of the antitrust function, pointing to the lengthy case times.
He said this was something the regulator was working on and the CMA was currently in the process of an ex-post assessment of merger controls.
“It is important for agencies to be open about previous mistakes,” he said.
Italian-born Coscelli also defended the CMA’s independence from the European Commission since Brexit, explaining that just because Big Tech firms like Meta may meet EU standards, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will automatically abide by the UK’s consumer standards.
He explained there was substantial “fragmentation” in the space, requiring UK protection.
Overall, he said the watchdog was in a better place now than it had been six years ago when he first took over the reins; the watchdog has since recruited a tide of tech and data science experts.
Coscelli pointed to the block of Sainsbury’s and Asda merger back in 2019 as a case he thought the CMA had handled well,.
Commenting on this with a 2022 lens and the backdrop of the cost of living crisis, Coscelli said: “It was the right decision then but probably even more so now”.