The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) has urged electric vehicle (EV) chargepoint operators (CPOs) to be compliant with competition law at motorway service areas (MSAs).
In an open letter, the non-ministerial department aiming to promote healthy business practices across the UK stated that although increased private investment in MSAs is “welcome” it must be compliant to ensure that new CPOs are able to compete.
As part of an investigation by the CMA’s Subsidy Advice Unit (SAU), the organisation found that some single CPOs have been applying for electricity grid capacity at the MSA sites, with site operator consent, ahead of the full roll-out of the £950 million Rapid Charge Fund (RCF).
This could result in a small number of CPOs controlling access to electricity grid capacity at those MSA sites, thus limiting competition from new entrants and leading to one or a few incumbent CPOs, the letter read.
First announced in 2020, the £950 million RCF aims to deliver six high-power, open access electric vehicle (EV) chargepoints at each motorway service area (MSA) by 2023 and 6,000 in total by 2035.
It was designed to solve the challenge of high-powered chargers often requiring upgraded grid connections, which in turn incur heavy costs, presenting a barrier to the rollout.
The CMA letter stated that “arrangements which lead to long-term exclusivity between CPOs and MSA site operators and/or incumbency of a single operator at a site or across multiple sites, could breach competition law”.
This bad practice could have a detrimental effect on charging availability at MSAs with, in the long-term, having a wide variety of different CPOs available the service stations could give drivers a choice and promote competition resulting in better outcomes for consumers.
Concluding the letter penned by Jennifer Halliday senior director, advocacy and external engagement, Halliday said that the organisation would “continue to monitor charging along motorways and the sector more broadly”.