The CMA has announced that it is forming a new 'Behavioural Hub' to help it understand consumer issues. It intends to draw on economics, data science, and behavioural science to analyse and comprehend complex consumer issues.
This move is in line with the CMA's stated mission to "make markets work in the interests of consumers, businesses and the economy” and arises from several proposals made to the government by the CMA last year.
In a speech announcing the move, Andrea Coscelli (the Chief Executive of the CMA) stated that the new Behavioural Hub would help the CMA to improve its accountability, accessibility, representativeness and responsiveness to the 'taxpayers they serve'. Mr Coscelli also generally announced plans for a greater focus on the needs and interests of the UK consumer, and a shift of the CMA towards greater transparency and visibility. Mr Coscelli pointed to several landmark wins for the CMA in recent years as victories for consumers, including investigation into the care home and gambling sectors. Mr Coscelli also made reference to Brexit, and the CMA's shifting focus on the interests of UK consumers as a result, in order to highlight the purpose and intended use of the proposed Behavioural Hub. In order to best serve the UK consumer, Mr Coscelli said, the CMA would be drawing on the expertise of the Citizens Advice Bureau and contact centres, in order to understand concerns first hand. This understanding is intended to be used alongside the expertise of data and behavioural scientists in order to target the CMA's efforts on issues that are most relevant to consumers.
The establishment of the 'Behavioural Hub' is a further example of the emphasis that the CMA has been placing on direct consumer outcomes since the Government's Strategic Steer to it in 2015. During the intervening period we have seen the CMA take the lead with its pioneering Open Banking initiative which was designed to increase competition and innovation in the UK’s banking market. It was the first significant attempt to use technology to rebalance markets in favour of consumers. As well as the new Behavioural Hub, Mr Coscelli also announced the CMA's plans for greater transparency in relation to case selection and decision making, and greater visibility and vocality when action is taken by the CMA. Mr Coscelli also drew on the 13 director disqualifications secured by the CMA since 2016 as evidence of its increased focus on individual accountability, and highlighted the CMA's growing focus on digital technologies and the creation of 'DaTA Unit' (designed to assist the CMA with various online and digital issues, including "manipulation of the online environment to steer consumers' choices and algorithms used by business that work against consumers' interests.").