The strong position of the "Big Four" firms continue to raise questions.

The National Audit Office and audit watchdog the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) are raising questions about the Big Four's share of the large company audit market.

The FRC commissioned a study by economic consultancy Oxera that confirmed that Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, audit all but one of the FTSE 100 companies, 97% of the FTSE 250, and 93% of all listed companies outside AIM.

The Oxera report, published in April, found that larger companies felt that in spite of a wealth of accountancy firms to pick, they had a de facto limited choice. This was a result of the reputational advantages of one of the Big Four firms doing your audit.

Having examined the audit markets on a number of occasions (e.g. PriceWaterhouse merger with Coopers & Lybrand and the various acquisitions of the ex-Arthur Andersen practices), the European Commission, the top EU antitrust regulator, has given the industry very much a clean bill of health. A spokesperson said: "The Commission does not have specific concerns at present but is aware of the market structure of the sector and will examine this should a specific case arise."

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