Watchdog objects to Land Registry sell-off
Written By - Sam Haynes - May 25,2016
The UK’s competition watchdog has warned against the privatisation of the Land Registry. The Competition and Markets Authority said it was concerned that a privatised business would not maintain or improve access to the data.
The proposal to sell the Land Registry is part of a programme of mooted sell-offs by the Treasury aimed at raising £5bn by 2020. The government has confirmed it is pressing ahead with the re-privatisation of the Green Investment Bank, which backs green projects such as wind farms.
Responding to a consultation on plans for a privately owned ‘NewCo’ to take over Land Registry’s operations, the Competition and Markets Authority said that ‘there is a significant risk’ that a business engaged in both the supply of monopoly data and the supply of commercial products based on the data ‘would not maintain or improve access’ to the data.
The new vertically integrated business might also be tempted to ‘degrade the terms of access to its monopoly data in order to weaken competition to its own commercial products’.
The authority adds: ‘While these risks are not unique to privately owned monopolies, our view is that they may be sharpened by the introduction of a profit motive.’
It recommends that the best way to guard against competition risks would be to split Land Registry into monopoly and commercial divisions, and preventing the monopoly business from developing commercial products.
The consultation by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on Land Registry’s future closes on Thursday. It has already attracted critical responses from bodies as diverse as conveyancers, City lawyers and trade unions.
Last week’s Queen's speech revealed that a sale would be enabled by the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill, due to be introduced this parliamentary session.
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