FT Electric highway chargers at Moto Rugby

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has taken action to open up competition in the charging sector at service stations.

The move follows a CMA investigation into Electric Highway’s exclusive contracts with motorway service area operators Moto, Roadchef and Extra.

Gridserve, which owns the Electric Highway, has offered legally-binding assurances to address CMA concerns over competition.

It offered:

  • Not to enforce exclusive rights in contracts with Extra, Moto or Roadchef, after 2026, which currently operate around two-thirds of motorway service s. In doing so, Gridserve has committed to reducing the length of the exclusive rights in the current contracts with Moto by around two years and Roadchef by around four years (the contract with the third operator, Extra, is due to end in 2026).
  • Not to enforce exclusive rights at any Extra, Moto or Roadchef sites that have been granted funding under the UK government’s Rapid Charging Fund (RCF). This means that, where funding has been granted, competitor chargepoint operators will be able to install chargepoints regardless of the exclusive element of the Electric Highway’s contracts.

Extra, Moto, Roadchef and Gridserve have also offered commitments not to take any action that would undermine the above commitments.

Andrea Coscelli, CMA chief executive, said: “One of the biggest stumbling blocks to getting people to switch to electric cars is the fear that they won’t be able to travel from A to B without running out of charge.

“Millions of people make a pitstop for fuel at motorway service stations every day, so it’s crucial that people can trust that electric chargepoints will do the same job.

“Healthy competition is key to ensuring that drivers have a greater choice of chargepoints where they need them, and for a fair price.

“We believe that opening up competition on motorways, while ensuring the sector has greater investment, is the right direction of travel – and good news for current drivers of electric cars and for people thinking of buying one.”

The CMA’s investigation is looking at the Electric Highway’s long-term, exclusive contracts with Extra, Moto and Roadchef for the motorway service stations they operate. In particular, the concerns are that provisions in those contracts granting exclusivity to the Electric Highway:

  • may be preventing competitor chargepoint operators from operating at motorway service areas;
  • could impede the successful roll-out of the government’s anticipated RCF; and
  • may result in drivers losing out on competitive prices and reliable chargepoints as a result of a lack of competition at motorway service areas.

It is the CMA’s provisional view that the commitments offered will address its competition concerns and open up competition in the market ahead of the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. Significant new investments are due to be made by Gridserve ahead of expected demand between 2021 and 2025.

The CMA is now inviting views on the proposed commitments – to be submitted to the CMA by 2 December.