CMA asks for block exemption extension to shield integrated ticketing from competition law

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) block exemption which enables multi-operator ticketing schemes to work without risk of being challenged by competition law is likely to be extended for a further 10 years when it expires at the end of February in the New Year.

The CMA is recommending that the business secretary renews the existing block exemption. This allows agreements between public transport providers concerning ticketing schemes which improve the quality, flexibility and ease of use of public transport.

The CMA has pointed out that agreements between transport operators can raise competition concerns, such as situations involving competing operators agreeing pricing and revenue sharing. However, where this allows travellers to use integrated ticketing schemes such as through tickets or travelcards with different operators, the body agreed that it provides benefits for passengers and the block exemption offers ‘safe harbour’ from the Competition Act provisions that prohibit anti-competitive agreements.

Among the recommendations from the CMA to the secretary of state are the simplification of the definition of multi-operator travel cards to make it easier for operators to apply, change the block exemption to ensure that it allows for smart formats and products and to renew the block exemption for a 10-year period, whereas up to now it has been renewed every five years, in order to provide a greater legal certainty to the industry.

Roland Green, CMA Senior Policy Director, said: “Passengers receive substantial benefits from multi-operator ticketing schemes and that is why we are recommending the block exemption is retained.

“We also want travellers to benefit from opportunities offered by smart ticketing, for example by enabling price-capped, pay-as-you-go tickets to be usable across different operators.

“We also think that extending the exemption to a 10-year period will be welcomed by the industry as it will provide greater legal certainty for their operations. The added clarity should make the block exemption easier to use, particularly for bus operators and local authorities, and we hope that this will encourage the development of multi-operator ticketing schemes.”