Ofcom has launched an investigation into how the Barclay’s Premier League sells its match rights following a complaint from Virgin Media in September.
The UK broadcast regulator opened the investigation under section 25 of the Competition Act, sparked by a complaint from Virgin which had a grievance with the rights bidding process which it said inflated prices.
Section 25 states that the watchdog can launch an investigation in cases where there are “reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is an agreement which has as its object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the UK and/or the EU.”
The investigation will aim to find any evidence that indicates that the current bidding process breaches competition law.
An Ofcom statement read: “Virgin Media's complaint alleges that the arrangements for the 'collective' selling of live UK television rights by the Premier League for matches played by its member clubs is in breach of competition law.
“Virgin Media argues that the proportion of matches made available for live television broadcast under the current Premier League rights deals - at 41 per cent - is lower than some other leading European leagues, where more matches are available for live television broadcast.”
It concluded: “The complaint alleges that this contributes to higher prices for consumers of pay TV packages that include premium sport channels and for the pay TV retailers of premium sports channels.”
With the 2016 bidding process about to commence, the 2013-16 package was sold for £3bn, up 70 per cent on the previous deal. Virgin said it will refrain from bidding on the next rights package although BSkyB and BT Sport are likely to compete.