The CMA's annual plan published on 14 March 2024 outlines the upcoming areas of focus for the next 12 months, building on the three-year strategy set out in the 2023/4 plan. Here are the highlights from a consumer regulatory perspective -

Medium-term priorities 

The CMA’s medium-term priorities look very similar to last year’s:

People can be confident they are getting great choices and fair deals 

As with last year’s plan, the CMA intends to focus where consumers are spending the most money and time. As set out last year, this includes focusing on areas such as:

  • getting about and travelling
  • caring for ourselves and others
  • having somewhere to live
  • feeding ourselves and our families
  • learning, playing and socialising

The whole UK economy can grow productively and sustainably

Similarly to last year’s plan, the CMA references taking action to accelerate the transition to a net zero economy. 

How it intends to action these priorities 

The CMA has retained its core enablers from last year (which include adapting its business model, building and reinforcing critical capabilities and upgrading its employee value proposition).

What’s new is an addition to the CMA’s “prioritisation principles” - these are the principles which guide the CMA's choice of work. This year’s plan refers to the existing principles of:

  • Impact: the likely effects of intervention by the CMA in a given situation
  • Strategic significance: whether intervention would fit with the CMA's strategy and/or with other CMA objectives
  • Risk: the likelihood of a successful outcome
  • Resources: the resource implications of intervening

However, the principles this year also, interestingly, include:

  • Is the CMA best placed to act: is there an appropriate alternative to CMA action? 

Focus for the next 12 months 

The Annual Plan notes the CMA intends to build on existing progress made in delivering the medium-term principles. This year’s consumer areas of focus include:

  • areas of essential spending such as travel, caring for ourselves and others, and accommodation;
  • broadening work into online choice architecture including misleading pricing;
  • emergent markets including the development and deployment of AI foundation models; and
  • continuing focus on sustainable products and services including the programme of work on misleading green claims.

Where is consumer regulatory action heading?

The CMA has again taken a long-term approach to achieving its ambitions with priorities and areas of focus that look very similar to last year. On that basis, I think we can expect the CMA to deepen its existing work – expect continued focus into online choice architecture, misleading pricing, green claims, and accommodation. 

There may well be some new areas of focus judging from this year’s annual plan – in particular, a greater emphasis on the travel sector and AI foundation models. Businesses operating in these areas should take note, particularly as this year’s annual plan also suggests the CMA’s preparations for its new enforcement powers under the DMCC Bill are ramping up.