UK Office of Fair Trading chief to step down after 7 years


THE FORMER head of the Irish Competition Authority, John Fingleton, is to step down as chief executive of the UK’s Office of Fair Trading after seven years in the post that saw him launch some of its biggest ever inquiries.

Offering six months’ notice, to the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, Vince Cable, Mr Fingleton said it was a good time for someone new to take the helm and steer the competition and consumer regime into the future.

Frequently outspoken in the role, Mr Fingleton has been critical of the British government’s failure to decide on the future shape of competition regulation, following the cabinet office’s recommendation last year that the OFT should be merged with the Competition Commission.

His name has been linked to the post of secretary-general of the Department of Finance in Ireland, but Mr Fingleton told The Irish Times, “I am based in London and reasonably settled. I expect to be based here.

“I have not got anything lined up. I have not decided what to do next, but seven years in the job here and five more earlier in Ireland is a long time to be doing this type of work.”

Under his contract, he is required to give six months’ notice. However, it is possible he could leave earlier if a successor is found quickly. “If something particularly interesting came along I might ask to be released earlier, but I expect that I will be here until the summer.”

Paying tribute to him, OFT chairman Philip Collins said that under Mr Fingleton’s vigorous leadership, the OFT had taken on issues that really matter to consumers and the economy, across everything from bank charges and payment protection insurance to airport ownership, the construction industry and transparency of prices.

Last week Mr Fingleton voiced strong criticisms of British banks and warned he is ready to recommend a Competition Commission investigation. He has long been critical of the problems that customers face when they want to switch current accounts, along with the banks’ control of payment systems.