CMA refers Bottomline Technologies’ acquisition of Experian Payments Gateway for in-depth investigation

Maria Nikolova

The regulator says the situation has resulted, or may be expected to result, in a substantial lessening of competition within the UK market for goods or services.

Two weeks after the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) voiced its concerns about the payment software firm Bottomline Technologies’ purchase of Experian Payments Gateway (EPG), the regulator said it was referring the deal for an in-depth investigation.

In the document published today, the CMA says it believes that it is or may be the case that:

  • (a) a relevant merger situation has been created, in that: (i) enterprises carried on by Bottomline Technologies (de), Inc. have ceased to be distinct from the enterprise consisting of the Experian Payments Gateway business carried on by Experian Limited; and (ii) the condition specified in section 23(2)(b) of the Act is satisfied; and
  • (b) the creation of that situation has resulted, or may be expected to result, in a substantial lessening of competition within a market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services, including: (i) the supply of payments software for Bacs submissions via Bacstel-IP in the UK; and (ii) the supply of payments software for Faster Payments Service Direct Corporate Access submissions via Secure-IP in the UK.

Hence, CMA makes a reference to its chair for the constitution of a group under Schedule 4 to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 in order that the group may investigate and report, within a period ending on April 5, 2020, on the following questions in accordance with section 35(1) of the Act:

  • (a) whether a relevant merger situation has been created; and
  • (b) if so, whether the creation of that situation has resulted, or may be expected to result, in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.

Earlier in October, the regulator said that, after its initial Phase 1 investigation into the merger, it was concerned that the new, merged company may increase prices, reduce product availability, or reduce its investment in innovation. This is mainly because if Bottomline had not acquired EPG, there would have been a realistic chance that EPG would have been bought by a different firm, which could have resulted in a more competitive market with greater product development and more choice for customers.

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