CMA offers cash for whistleblowers
20 March 2017
The CMA has launched its first-ever advertising campaign addressing the problem of cartels. The campaign, called “Cracking down on Cartels”, is an attempt to raise awareness of cartels and includes a further effort to encourage individuals who think that they may have witnessed illegal cartel behaviour to spill the beans.
Cartels typically involve businesses (or individuals within businesses) colluding with their competitors in relation to pricing, tenders and customers. Businesses that fall foul of the prohibition can suffer heavy fines and individuals can face prosecution.
The CMA has announced that it will pay up to £100,000 for witnesses (rather than the people engaged in illegal conduct themselves) who give the regulator information which helps them stop cartels. It is worth adding that the £100,000 is very much the top end of what is payable. The guidance explains that the payment is discretionary, and depends on the value of the information to the investigation, the seriousness of the cartel, and the effort / risk involved from the whistleblower.
The cash offer appears to be primarily targeted at employees and contractors, but it will be interesting to see if any consultants or other advisors take up the offer. As always, the best medicine is prevention; businesses should foster awareness of competition law and identify the main risk areas affecting their organisation. Otherwise, the chances of any illegal behaviour being found out have probably just got a bit higher.