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UK’s CMA Investigates Education Software Company for Market Abuse

 |  May 14, 2024

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) of Britain has launched an investigation into Education Software Solutions Ltd (ESS), the leading provider of management information systems for schools across the UK. The investigation aims to determine whether ESS has violated competition laws by impeding schools from transitioning to alternative providers.

The CMA revealed on Tuesday that it suspects ESS of leveraging its dominant market position to obstruct schools from switching to different management information system (MIS) providers. With approximately 50% market share in England and a significant presence in Wales and Northern Ireland, ESS holds considerable influence over the educational software sector.

Management information systems are integral databases utilized by educational institutions to manage student information, including attendance records.

Read more: Institutional Design and Decision-Making in the Competition and Markets Authority

Juliette Enser, Interim Executive Director of Competition Enforcement at the CMA, expressed concern over the allegations against ESS. “We’re concerned about the complaints we’ve received regarding ESS’s alleged behaviour,” she stated. “It’s essential that schools are able to pick the most appropriate system for their needs – and change providers with ease when their contract is up.”

The CMA’s investigation follows complaints from schools asserting that ESS has obstructed their ability to transition to alternative MIS providers ahead of contract renewal dates. Specifically, schools have alleged that ESS refused to share database backups with new providers, citing concerns over intellectual property rights.

Sharing database backup copies is a common practice in the sector for facilitating data transfer between systems. The CMA emphasized that withholding access to these backups could significantly hinder a school’s ability to transition to a new provider, thereby potentially limiting competition in the market.

The investigation underscores the CMA’s commitment to ensuring fair competition within the educational software industry. As the inquiry progresses, the regulator will examine ESS’s conduct closely to determine whether it has breached competition laws and taken advantage of its market dominance to the detriment of schools and consumers.

Source: Reuters