Whistleblowers are being offered up to £100,000, as the CMA launches its first-ever advertising campaign to crack down on cartels.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is targeting illegal cartels – businesses which cheat their customers by agreeing not to compete with each other in order to keep their prices high. The practice stops ordinary people and other businesses from getting a fair deal as well as stifling competition.
The CMA’s campaign “Cracking down on Cartels” will encourage people who have witnessed illegal activity to report it, by offering a reward of up to £100,000 as well as promising them anonymity.
Meanwhile, under the CMA’s leniency scheme, firms can avoid penalties of up to 10% of their total turnover and prison sentences of up to 5 years for staff if they are the first to confess their cartel.
Andrea Coscelli, Acting Chief Executive, said: “Cartels are a form of stealing that cheat ordinary people as well as other businesses by undermining competition, and we are committed to tackling them wherever we find them. Cartels are carried out in secret to make you think you are getting a fair deal, even when you are being conspired against to keep prices high.
“Cartels are both harmful and illegal, and the consequences of breaking the law are extremely serious. That is why we are launching this campaign – to help people understand what cartel activity looks like and how to report it so we can take action.”
CMA research found that – whilst most businesses have a shared ethical sense that conduct such as price-fixing is unfair or wrong – less than a quarter of businesses said they knew competition law well and that:
⦁ Only 16% knew that informants could get a reward for reporting a suspected cartel, and
⦁ Only 15% knew that the CMA operates a leniency programme for businesses and individuals that confess their involvement in a cartel and cooperate with the CMA.
This research has led to the creation of the first advertising campaign run by the CMA specifically designed to stamp out cartel activity and encourage people to report it to the CMA. Adverts will appear in people’s social media feeds, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as on key websites.