Competition & Markets Authority
Blowing the whistle on cartels
CMA increases informant reward up to £250K to crack down on cartels.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is strengthening its enforcement work against illegal cartels and offering a reward of up to £250,000, increased from £100,000, to people who tell the CMA about unlawful cartel activity they have witnessed.
Illegal cartels – businesses which cheat their customers by agreeing not to compete in order to keep their prices high – stop people and other businesses from getting a fair deal as well as stifling competition. Businesses that participate in cartels, knowing them to be illegal and a cheat on their customers, often go to great lengths to keep the cartel hidden and secret. This makes them difficult to detect, and so harder to bring to an end.
The CMA’s ‘Cheating or Competing’ campaign has advice for people and businesses to help them spot, report and deter illegal anti-competitive practices. It encourages people who have witnessed illegal activity to report it by offering a reward as well as protecting their anonymity.
The CMA also has a range of guidance to help businesses and directors understand more about how to comply with competition law. Businesses found to have been involved in illegal cartels can be fined up to 10% of their annual turnover, individuals directly involved can face up to 5 years in prison, and company directors can be disqualified from holding director positions for up to 15 years.
The reward is separate from the CMA’s leniency programme where a business or an individual that has participated in a cartel may escape sanctions if they come forward with information about the cartel, provided certain conditions are met.
Michael Grenfell, Executive Director of Enforcement at the CMA, said:
Cartels can cause serious damage to their customers, whether businesses or individual people, weakening price competitiveness – a particular concern at a time of cost-of-living pressures.
The CMA’s job is to stamp out illegal cartels, but because cartels are generally conducted in secret, we need to encourage people to come forward and provide us with the information we need to crack down on cartels and protect people and businesses from the harm they cause. For these reasons, we are today increasing the maximum financial reward for informants and whistle-blowers who provide us with valuable information about cartels so that we can take action.
The CMA has uncovered cartels in a wide range of industries such as construction, healthcare and consumer products and services, and the enhanced reward will help the CMA build on these cases. The ‘Cheating or Competing’ campaign shines a light on anti-competitive collusion and puts the onus on businesses to ensure their practices are fair and legal or risk the consequences. Further cases of suspected cartel are currently under investigation.
Notes to Editors:
- To report cartel activity, you have witnessed: email email@example.com or ring 0800 085 1664 or 020 3738 6888. - 2. Rewards are at the discretion of the CMA so there is no right to receive a reward. However, the CMA will pay a reward if the information concerned is significant in nature and leads to enforcement action by the CMA against those involved in cartel activity. Information on how to confess a cartel, the CMA’s leniency programme and what to expect if the cartel activity was in Scotland can be found here.
- Under the CMA’s leniency policy a company or individual which confesses its involvement in a cartel can gain complete civil and criminal immunity from sanctions provided certain conditions are met. The CMA does not consider that an individual in such circumstances should ordinarily also gain a financial reward. However, there may be circumstances where the CMA will consider a reward in addition to immunity from sanction under the leniency policy. This is most likely to be considered where the role of the person in the cartel was relatively peripheral - for example that of an employee who was occasionally directed by his superiors to attend a cartel meeting and who did not take an active part in decision-making about the cartel.
- To confess your involvement in a cartel and apply for leniency, or for confidential guidance: call 020 3738 6833.
- The ‘Cheating or Competing’ campaign page can be found at: Cheating or Competing? Its your business to know the difference.
- Enquiries should be directed to the CMA press office on 020 3738 6460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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