Office of Fair Trading
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OFT publishes competition law guidance as survey shows business awareness rising
The OFT yesterday launched new guidance, and a film including a dramatised dawn raid, to help businesses comply with competition law.
This coincides with the publication of research showing business awareness of competition law has grown but has further to go.
Businesses' knowledge of competition law has doubled in the last four years, following a period of high profile competition law enforcement across a range of major sectors - 65 per cent of larger businesses surveyed said they were aware of such enforcement by the OFT.
A competition law compliance culture can help businesses avoid the risks of infringing the law: fines of up to 10 per cent of worldwide turnover, director disqualification orders and imprisonment for up to five years for individuals involved in cartels.
The OFT has worked with business groups to develop the new guidance. The first document, How Your Business Can Achieve Compliance, is aimed at businesses and their advisors, and sets out the OFT's recommended risk-based, four-step approach to creating a culture of competition law compliance.
Reflecting the crucial role directors play in compliance the second document, Company Directors and Competition Law, explains the level of competition law understanding expected from directors. It outlines steps they should take to prevent, detect and stop infringements of competition law.
The independent survey of over 2,000 businesses, carried out for the OFT, found 25 per cent felt they knew 'a lot' or 'a fair amount' about competition law, which is double the number (12 per cent) in a similar survey in 2006. For larger businesses this number was higher at 45 per cent, with only 13 per cent of executives from these larger firms saying they knew 'nothing' about competition law.
The survey found that smaller businesses were less able to identify practices that breach competition law.
In response to these findings, and to suggestions from business groups, the OFT has produced a package of materials, including a Quick Guide summary of competition law compliance and a film explaining how competition law works in practice. These highlight how businesses can implement the simple four-step compliance process. The OFT is working with business groups, including the CBI, Institute Of Directors and the Trade Association Forum, to raise awareness of the new guidance and disseminate the new materials.
John Fingleton, OFT Chief Executive, said:
'Compliance with competition law is essential to ensuring that markets work well for consumers. We recognise that most businesses want to comply with the law and are keen to help them avoid breaching the law in the first place, supporting this by taking strong enforcement action against those who do not comply.
'Businesses have told us that competition law is far higher up the business agenda than even five years ago, and this has been confirmed in our survey. The guidance documents published today are intended to support businesses and company directors by providing practical guidance on the steps they can take in order to comply with competition law.'
The two guidance documents - How Your Business Can Achieve Compliance and Company Directors and Competition Law - along with the Quick Guide and the film can be accessed from the Competition law compliance project page.
Independent research carried out by Synovate was commissioned by the Office of Fair Trading in 2010. Synovate carried out interviews with a representative sample of businesses in seven sectors (manufacturing, hotels and restaurants, transport, financial intermediation, real estate, and recreational, cultural and sporting activities). Construction was excluded as the OFT was also conducting parallel research in this sector (see press release Evaluation of OFT enforcement in construction sector highlights improvements in awareness and behaviour - 4 June 2010). In 2006, similar research was carried out by Synovate and although the survey sample compositions were not identical, key questions from this survey were repeated.
The OFT urges any person with information on cartels, price fixing, or abuse of dominance to telephone the cartels hotline on 0800 0851664 or email firstname.lastname@example.org in strictest confidence. Under its informants reward programme, the OFT is also prepared to offer financial rewards of up to £100,000 in return for information which assists investigations.