The first steps of a States investigation into how the island’s competition authority ruled that a fuel company had “abused” its market position that was later thrown out by the Royal Court at a cost of around £500,000 to taxpayers are now underway.
Assistant Chief Minister Paul Routier approved the terms of reference for a review into the matter and the commissioning of expert legal advice on 20 March.
The Chief Minister announced that he had CICRA in his sights back in January after ATF Fuels, which is widely believed to be owned by billionaire hedge fund manager Peter de Putron, successfully appealed against the regulator’s ruling that they had abused a dominant market position by failing to supply an operator with fuel for resale and charging them more than previous suppliers. It was the fourth decision to be overturned in the Royal Court in a decade.
Speaking during a States Assembly meeting, he suggested that a review would focus on the regulatory body’s overall “fit for purposeness.”
Pictured: CICRA's decision against ATF was overturned in the Royal Court in January.
It has now been revealed, however, that the assessment will have a narrower focus, and will entitled: “Review of the JCRA decision that ATF fuels had abused a dominant market position.”
It aims to probe “the circumstances leading up to the JCRA’s decision, whether the Regulator has discharged its legal responsibilities and duties appropriately, and whether there have been any significant deficiencies in the operation of the competition law”, and may also touch upon alternative ways to settle competition disputes.
A report outlining the review's terms of reference outlined how States officials feel that, in light of the recent ATF case, it is now “difficult to be confident that the competition system, including the institutions that operate it, is working in the interests of the economy and consumers.” Such concerns were vehemently opposed by CICRA CEO Michael Byrne in a recent Express interview.
The decision to undertake a review follows a heated social media campaign and leaflets distributed through islanders’ doors by ATF highlighting their discontent with CICRA. Senator Philip Ozouf, who helped set up CICRA, has spearheaded efforts to bring the debate to the political stage, having grilled Ministers over the regulator on four separate occasions over the past six months.
Justifying the decision to undertake an expert review of the regulator, which will come at an undisclosed sum from “existing budgets”, stated: “Fuel sector issues have been raised by States Members on a number of occasions in the States Assembly. There is a significant level of media comment about competition, pricing and operations in the market not just around the abuse of dominance case but also around aspects of the La Collette fuel farm.”
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