The CMA just went through a public grilling after talking to the UK Parliament about their recent decisions, including but not limited to the Microsoft – Activision deal.
Our primary source is Florian Mueller, who we have previously used as a source for news and updates on this story. In this case, we won’t deny Florian has a bias in this story, but he also has a good track record of sharing factual information. We will clarify when necessary when he shares opinion vs facts about the hearing.
We have also watched part of the hearing ourselves to take some key quotes. You can see the hearing online here.
This is a general oversight hearing, scheduled in anticipation of Microsoft’s and Activision’s appeal of the CMA decision. The CMA has been facing complaints for several of their decisions, not only the Microsoft Activision deal. On hand for the meeting are the CMA Chair Marcus Bokkerink, and the CMA chief executive, Sarah Cardell.
With that in mind, here’s a summary of Florian’s thread about the hearing.
The hearing actually started off talking about the Microsoft Activision deal itself. Sarah explained the details of their decision, and that they found Microsoft’s remedy proposals to be insufficient.
While Sarah explained that decisions are made by independent inquiry groups, Florian chimes in here that it’s well known that she pushed for this decision to block.
The big moment came when MP Bim Afolami, representing Hitchin and Harpenden and coming from the British Conservative Party, started grilling Sarah in very specific ways.
After already asking once, Bim clarified his question, saying:
“What I’m asking precisely is the international reputation of the UK, do you consider that at all? Either on a decision by decision basis, or strategically, as the leads of the organization? Do you consider that as the UK being seen as being open to business, yes or no?”
If you may remember, Bim very specifically uses words that were also used by Microsoft and Activision in their reactions to the CMA’s decision.
Now this was Sarah’s response:
“Individual cases need to be decided on their merits. Are we looking strategically at the role of the CMA? Absolutely. We will consider the impact of the decisions that we have, and the impact that it has on the UK economy, including our reputation, externally.
I believe that strong competition is a very positive signal for the UK’s reputation.”
We return to Florian’s summary here, for the sake of brevity. Bim talks to both Sarah and Marcus about the issues arising from the EU coming to a different decision.
Bim accuses the CMA of simply assuming their decision is right, and grills them about the CMA’s discussions with the EU and FTC prior to coming to this decision. Bim’s line of questioning indicates he knows about the rumors that the FTC has been trying to sway the CMA’s decision on this matter, an accusation the CMA has previously denied.
The CMA ultimately did not admit to any error or wrongdoing, but this hearing and their interactions with MP Bim Afolami indicate that the UK government definitely heard the criticisms vs them for this decision.
We don’t know yet how far UK government will go to reverse the CMA’s decision, but clearly, just like the US government, they are very wary of the decisions made by their own regulators in regards to the Microsoft Activision deal. Because for the US, the UK, the EU, and the rest of the world, this deal could make a huge difference in terms of the business and jobs it could generate. And nobody wants to be the country that missed out.