Cartel activity is prohibited in the UK by both the civil and criminal law. The Competition and Markets Authority and the European Commission can impose large civil fines against companies found to have breached competition law.
The Serious Fraud Office is also able to investigate and prosecute individuals for the criminal cartel offence. Individuals found guilty of dishonest price fixing, market or customer sharing, bid rigging and other cartel behaviour can be sentenced to imprisonment, unlimited fines and disqualification as a director.
The FCA has recently obtained its own powers to investigate cartel activity in the financial services sector which it may use in conjunction with its other enforcement powers.
Private damages actions may also follow against those involved in serious anti-competitive behaviour to recover losses incurred as a result of a breach of the law.
Companies may be able to reduce their liability with a successful application for immunity and leniency and individuals may seek to obtain a "no action" letter to avoid prosecution for the criminal cartel offence. Early involvement of experienced lawyers will increase the chances of success.
Our experience includes:
- advising a sports retail company under investigation by the OFT for the price-fixing of replica football kits
- advising a construction company under investigation by the OFT for bid-rigging and market sharing
- advising a financial institution on its competition compliance policy and procedures