South-west lawyers asked to help competition law awareness

28 Sep 2016 01:08 PM

Lawyers in the south-west of England are being asked to help promote awareness of new competition law compliance materials to business clients.

Around 140 law firms headquartered in the south-west will be contacted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and encouraged to share the CMA’s easy-to-use competition law information with their small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) clients.

The information is intended to help SMEs recognise anti-competitive practices, comply with competition law and report suspicions of illegal anti-competitive activity.

The approach is part of the CMA’s ongoing drive to boost awareness of, and compliance with, competition law, following the launch of its competing fairly in business: advice for small businesses materials.

The south-west is the sixth region of the country to be chosen as the target of an awareness-raising drive. As well as contacting lawyers, the CMA will also be meeting with regional business representatives in order to explain the importance of competition law.

Research shows that businesses’ understanding of competition law in the area is low:

  • only 4% of businesses in the south-west had run training sessions on competition law
  • only 55% of businesses in the south-west knew that price-fixing is illegal
  • only 30% of businesses in the south-west knew that it’s unlawful to set the price at which others can re-sell their product
  • only 8% of businesses in the south-west knew that admitting to participation in a cartel can lead to immunity from a penalty

The consequences of breaching competition law can be severe:

  • businesses can be fined up to 10% of their annual turnover
  • company directors can be disqualified from managing a company for up to 15 years
  • people involved in cartels can face up to 5 years in prison

The CMA has also commissioned further research which revealed that most small businesses have a shared ethical sense that certain anti-competitive practices, such as price-fixing, are unfair or wrong and want to do the right thing.

Ann Pope, CMA Senior Director of Antitrust Enforcement, said:

The victims of anti-competitive activity can often be other businesses, so knowing what illegal behaviour looks like and how to report it can help small and medium-sized businesses protect themselves.

The potential consequences of breaking the law are very serious. That is why it is important that all businesses know what to look out for and report suspected breaches to the CMA.

Legal advisers to SMEs are ideally placed to help raise awareness of competition law among their clients.

Notes for editors

  1. The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law. For CMA updates, follow us on Twitter @CMAgovuk, Flickr and LinkedIn.
  2. The CMA has created a suite of competition law guidance materials to assist businesses and their advisers.
  3. The CMA has also created a form so anyone concerned about potential anti-competitive or market issues can raise an alert.
  4. Media enquiries should be directed to Simon Belgard (simon.belgard@cma.gsi.gov.uk, 020 3739 6472).