The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has warned that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) could face price rises and lower service quality from its computer-based testing (CBT) provider.
Pearson VUE’s proposed acquisition of the CBT business of Sheffield-headquartered learndirect could face an in-depth investigation, the regulator has said.
Learndirect is due to take over as provider of the DVSA driving theory test across the UK from Pearson VUE in September 2016.
According to the CMA, if learndirect’s CBT business were acquired by Pearson VUE, “it would leave Pearson VUE as the only viable provider with the necessary technical capabilities and national network of test centres to service the contract with the DVSA”.
The evidence gathered by the authority suggested that, as a result of this merger, Pearson VUE would not face sufficient competitive constraints in the end-to-end invigilated CBT market overall, either through existing competitors or through any new entrants.
Unless Pearson VUE offered acceptable undertakings to address the loss of competition that could result from the merger, the CMA said it would refer the deal for an in-depth phase two investigation, carried out by a group chosen from its independent panel members.
Sheldon Mills, senior director of mergers and decision maker in this case, said: “Computer-based testing is an efficient way to provide a secure, consistent environment for certification and accreditation across the UK. So it is important for both examination boards and candidates that there is sufficient competition in this market.”