In an open letter, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has warned about the potential risks of limited competition in the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure sector, specifically along motorways.
Jennifer Halliday, the CMA’s senior director of advocacy and external engagement, addressed chargepoint operators (CPOs) and motorway service area (MSA) site operators in an open letter today.
She underscored the importance of adhering to competition laws to foster a healthy market environment conducive to innovation and expansion.
For drivers to switch to EVs, they must feel confident that there is a comprehensive, competitive charging network in place across the UK, and that charging is as simple and convenient as filling up with petrol or diesel. EV charging at motorway service area (MSA) sites will be key to enabling the transition to EVs, to give drivers confidence on long distance journeys and alleviate ‘range anxiety’.
However, our 2021 study found barriers to competition and investment in some parts of the charging sector – in particular, we highlighted concerns about very limited competition along motorways.
The CMA’s cautionary stance comes after a series of investigations into suspected breaches of the Competition Act 1998. These investigations centered on exclusive agreements between Gridserve Holdings and three MSA operators—Moto Holdings, Roadchef, and Extra MSA Property (UK).
These agreements were believed to be obstructing the deployment of the government’s £950 million Rapid Charging Fund (RCF), which aims to expand the network of rapid EV chargepoints across the country.
Such exclusivity could potentially prevent other operators from entering the market, thereby stifling competition.
In response to enforcement action by the CMA, all parties involved agreed to make significant changes. They committed to shortening exclusivity periods and not enforcing exclusive rights at any MSA site that benefits from RCF funding.
This move is intended to open up opportunities for additional operators to contribute to the development of a comprehensive EV charging network—a factor Halliday highlighted as vital for drivers considering switching to electric vehicles.
Halliday’s letter emphasized that while private investment in infrastructure is welcome and necessary, it must not come at the cost of violating competition law. She reiterated that any business dealings must comply with these laws, particularly highlighting concerns over long-term exclusivity arrangements that could infringe upon them.
The CMA has pledged ongoing vigilance over this sector and is prepared to intervene when necessary to safeguard competition and encourage innovation.