Ofgem staff discussions on adverts force it to bow out of probe into price comparison sites

Ofgem has passed an investigation into anti-competitive behaviour by price comparison websites to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) because it found that its own staff had been in discussions with the websites during the period.

Ofgem opened the investigation, which considered whether comparison websites had been “agreeing behaviour relating to online keyword search advertising”, in October 2015.

But the regulator procured search advertising itself during the period, and has found “communications between Ofgem staff and representatives of some of the parties under investigation encouraging those parties to change their behaviour in relation to bidding on search advertising keywords relevant to Ofgem.”

As a result it has passed the investigation on, effective immediately.

Ofgem decided in March to close a separate investigation into whether price comparison  websites had sharing of commercially-sensitive information including on commission rates. The reguator said, “we consider that it would be more appropriate to devote our resources to other areas of our work, rather than continuing with this investigation.”