The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has called on schools and other affected bodies to comment on commitments it has received from Education Software Solutions (ESS) on its activity in the software market for schools.
This follows an investigation into whether ESS’s conduct had been anti-competitive by limiting schools’ ability to choose a provider of management information system (MIS) software.
CMA opened the investigation in April due to concerns that the company, said to be the largest MIS provider to schools in England and Wales, was requiring schools to move from one-year to three-year contracts without giving them sufficient time to make alternative arrangements with other suppliers. The authority feared that this would undermine competition in the market.
In response, ESS has offered to give legally binding assurances that would enable certain schools – broadly those that had been given insufficient time to switch providers – to apply to an independent adjudicator for a new break clause in the three-year contract.
Concerns over competition
CMA said that if it accepts the commitments it would entail that ESS does not acknowledge its behaviour was anti-competitive, but that they do address its concerns over competition.
It has invited comments from schools and other bodies likely to be affected, including on the eligibility criteria for a new break clause and any matters that may affect the implementation of the commitments, such as the application form to be used. If accepted this would bring the investigation to an end.
The consultation will be open until 8 December.