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CMA closes GRIDSERVE investigation following fresh exclusivity commitments

The CMA investigation has closed after GRIDSERVE made new exclusivity commitments. Image: GRIDSERVE

The CMA investigation has closed after GRIDSERVE made new exclusivity commitments. Image: GRIDSERVE

GRIDSERVE has made new commitments surrounding its exclusivity clauses with Motorway Service Area (MSA) operators due to a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation.

This investigation came as a result of GRIDSERVE completing the acquisition of the Electric Highway from Ecotricity in June 2021, with the CMA looking specifically into whether the exclusivity clauses of the contracts GRIDSERVE had acquired with three MSA operators - MOTO, Roadchef and Extra - breached competition rules.

GRIDSERVE said it pursued a path towards offering commitments to the CMA at a “very early stage” in proceedings, which have now been accepted and the investigation closed without any decision or admission of a breach of competition rules.

The main elements of the commitments are reducing the application of the exclusivity provisions under the relevant contracts to a period of approximately five years, and also not enforcing the exclusivity against chargepoint operators or MSA operators which plan to utilise Rapid Charging Fund (RCF)-funded additional grid capacity.

The £500 million RCF was announced by the government in 2020, with the intention of enabling the installation of six rapid chargers at all MSA sites by 2023 through the provision of funding for connection costs.

In its announcement of the investigation into GRIDSERVE, the CMA said it was concerned about other operators finding it difficult to provide competitive chargepoints.

It highlighted how as of July 2021, the Electric Highway provided 80% of all chargeponts at motorway service stations, excluding Tesla chargepoints which are only available to Tesla drivers. Additionally, the Electric Highway's exclusivity arrangements were to last between 10-15 years, and covered around two-thirds of motorway service stations.

“We immediately understood why the CMA was interested in EV charging at Motorway Service Areas, as upgrading the EV charging infrastructure at Motorway locations is an essential part of the public charging mix, and of particular importance to providing the confidence for new motorists to make the transition to electric vehicles,” GRIDSERVE said.

The investigation followed the CMA launching a study into to the EV charging sector in 2020, examining how to develop a competitive sector and attract private investment as well as how people can use chargepoints with the confidence that they will get the best out of the service.

In 2021, the CMA announced the study would focus more deeply on en-route rapid and ultra-rapid charging, in particular on motorways, and on-street charging following initial feedback.

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