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Competition watchdog launches another probe into SIMs

The competition watchdog has launched another investigation into England’s largest school management information system (MIS) provider amid concerns it could be “abusing” its “dominant” market position.

The Competition and Markets Authority is probing suspected law breaches by Education Software Solutions, which runs School Information Management System (SIMS).

This comes after Schools Week revealed the firm had told its school customers they would be breaching their contracts if they sent copies of their databases to third parties.

Concerned headteachers and the MIS company’s leading rivals have argued that the practice has been commonly used to transfer information during provider switches.

The CMA said it is concerned that schools’ ability to move to a new provider would be “severely hampered” by the move.

Juliette Enser, interim executive director of Competition Enforcement at the CMA, said: “We’re concerned about the complaints we’ve received regarding ESS’s alleged behaviour. As such, we’ll be investigating their conduct with urgency to get to the bottom of the matter.

“Management information systems are an integral part of protecting schools’ data, reducing costs, and safeguarding students. It’s essential that schools are able to pick the most appropriate system for their needs – and change providers with ease when their contract is up.”

The CMA launched an investigation after ESS announced it was scrapping its normal 12-month rolling contracts in favour of three-year deals in 2022.

It closed the case when the provider agreed to let eligible schools leave long-term agreements a year early. However, it did not rule on whether the company breached competition law.

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