The High Court has recently issued a judgment which confirms that when seeking a warrant to conduct a dawn raid at domestic premises in relation to a suspected cartel, the UK’s competition regulator (the Competition and Markets Authority, or “CMA”) can inspect domestic premises and does not always need to provide additional evidence of an individual’s propensity to destroy documents in order to justify the warrant. 

In some cases, the CMA may be entitled to an inference or presumption that the documents may be destroyed by the individual and that is sufficient to grant the warrant. 

This landmark judgment overturns a previous Competition Appeal Tribunal (“CAT”) decision and clarifies what evidence the CMA needs to provide when seeking a warrant to conduct dawn raids at domestic premises.  


The CMA has the power to investigate suspected breaches of competition law, including the power to enter premises with or without a warrant in order to further an investigation (known as “dawn raids”). 

The CMA can conduct dawn raids with or without prior notice, but does need a warrant from the CAT in most cases. The CAT can grant a warrant to allow CMA officials to enter business or domestic premises and search for documents where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that there are documents on the premises that the CMA could require to be produced, but if they were required to be produced they would be concealed, removed, tampered with or destroyed. 

The CAT Ruling 

In November 2023, the CAT granted the CMA warrants for entry and search of business premises as part of an investigation, but rejected the warrant for the domestic premises on the basis that an inference from a suspected secret cartel of destruction of documents was not enough to justify the issue of a warrant. 

The CAT considered that something more to suggest a propensity to destroy always needed to be asserted, particularly where those premises were occupied by others, and where the scope of the warrant was broad. 

The High Court Judgment 

In December 2023, the CMA applied to the High Court for judicial review of the CAT’s refusal to grant the warrant for domestic premises, amongst other things. 

In its application for judicial review, the CMA noted the CAT’s requirement to provide additional evidence for a propensity to destroy documents at domestic premises would have made it practically impossible to obtain a warrant for domestic premises. 

On 22 April 2024, the High Court issued its judgment which stated that the CAT had erred in its judgment. Whether or not an inference from a suspected cartel of destruction of documents is enough will depend on the facts and circumstances of each particular case. For example, the High Court noted that the position of an individual or the extent of his or her involvement in the cartel could mean that the inference is enough to justify the issue of a warrant without some additional evidence of a propensity to destroy documents. 

In addition, the High Court noted that the CAT had gone “too far” in ruling that something more would always be required in relation to a warrant to enter domestic premises, given the underlying legislative language for businesses and domestic premises were identical (s.28 and 28A of the Competition Act 1998). 

The CMA's powers

The judgment clarifies the CMA’s powers in relation to dawn raids and is even more important for businesses to be aware of, given the prevalence of remote working practices. 

In addition, businesses should note that the CMA’s powers to conduct dawn raids will be strengthened under the new Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Act 2024 (“DMCC Act”) which Parliament passed on 23 May 2024. For example, under the DMCC Act, the CMA will have the power to seize  personal devices from domestic premises and examine them offsite. The CMA can currently impose a fixed fine of up to £30,000 (or a daily rate of up to £15,000) on a company that obstructs a dawn raid investigation (e.g. tampering with seals). 

Under the DMCC Act, the CMA will have the power to impose a fine of up to 1% of a company’s global turnover and/or a daily penalty of up to 5% of daily global turnover for obstructing a dawn raid investigation. The DMCC Act is expected to come into full force in Autumn 2024. 

Businesses should be aware of the CMA’s extensive investigative powers and should have clear guidance in place on what to do in the event of a CMA dawn raid at home or at a business/office premises.

If you have any questions in relation to the issues raised in this article, please contact Chris Worrall or your usual Burges Salmon contact.

This post was written by Sandra Mapara.