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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published a notice of intention to accept the commitments offered by the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain on proposals that will see open travelling fairs to greater competition. Current rules have been stipulated by the Guild.

In December 2016, the CMA alleged that the guild’s current rules break competition law by limiting competition at fairs run by the trade body and between existing and potential rival fairs.

The CMA believed 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.

What changes are being proposed?

  • It will become easier for landowners (usually local authorities) to improve fairs by replacing poor-performing showmen, potentially bringing greater choice, new ideas and an even more attractive service for fairgoers.
  • Rules that don’t allow showmen to start new fairs where they are wanted will be changed and regularly reviewed. These rules won’t apply to showmen who are invited to operate fairground rides at events and festivals.
  • Members and non-members will find it easier to start fairs, as it will be easier for them to work together
  • It will be easier to join the Guild and offer amusements at the 7000 or so Guild fairs which take place each year.

The CMA’s provisional view is that the proposed rule changes, once implemented, would address its competition concerns.

The community is now invited to have their say on the proposal. If accepted by the CMA, the commitments will become legally binding on the Guild and the CMA would bring its investigation to an end.

Ann Pope, senior director antitrust at the CMA, 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.”

Anyone wishing to comment on the rules and changes should do so by 3 October. For more details visit the CMA website.

Established to protect the interests of its travelling showmen members, the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain represents around 90% of funfairs in the UK.

Virtually all travelling Funfairs —some 200 per week between Easter and Bonfire night— are operated by Guild. Some fairs in the UK attract over half a million fairgoers. It is estimated that the Guild has around 2,000 members that are active in putting on fairs.


Editor’s note: Photograph © Andrew Dunn.