FUNFAIRS: New proposals seek to open up market

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) is consulting on proposals offered by the main trade body for funfairs to open up travelling fairs to greater competition.

The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain – established to protect the interests of its travelling showmen members – represents around 90 per cent of funfairs in the UK.

In December 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) alleged that the Guild’s current rules break competition law by limiting competition at fairs run by the Guild and between existing Guild fairs and potential rival fairs.

As a result, fairgoers were potentially missing out on improvements arising from greater competition, such as new rides and amusements, new fairs or different kinds of fairs in their local vicinity. It also made it difficult for local authorities to change or improve a fair.

The Guild has now offered to make changes to its rules (by way of legally binding commitments) to fix these problems.

Specific changes proposed by the Guild include:

  • opening up access to Guild-run fairs for non-member showmen
  • enabling access to Guild-run fairs for the showmen (both members and non-members) who are best placed to provide an attractive service to fairgoers
  • allowing landowners (often local authorities) to change or improve a fair by replacing poorly performing fair organisers and amusement operators
  • reducing restrictions on rival fairs opening close to Guild fairs
  • making the rules of the Guild more transparent by publishing them online
  • making conditions for membership of the Guild expressly based on objective criteria

The CMA’s provisional view is that the proposed rule changes, once implemented, would address its competition concerns. It is now inviting comments from those who are likely to be affected. If accepted by the CMA, the commitments will become legally binding on the Guild and the CMA would bring its investigation to an end.

The CMA has also written a letter to members of the Guild and published a short summary and video to help explain what the proposed changes will mean for showmen.

Ann Pope, CMA senior director – Antitrust, said: “We welcome the Guild’s offer to make changes to its rules and are now consulting on whether others agree that they meet our competition concerns.

“We believe that the current restrictions hinder change and innovation in funfairs. The new rules will enable more competition in travelling fairs potentially giving the millions of fairgoers who attend them every year access to new rides and to different fairs in their local area.”

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