Competition and Markets Authority launches first advertising campaign aimed at stamping out illegal cartels in every sector
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is offering rewards of up to £100,000 as part of a high-profile clamp down on cartels.
Illegal cartels occur when businesses agree not to compete with each other to keep their prices high. This includes bid rigging, which was recently highlighted as a particular issue in public sector bids.
The CMA's maiden advertising campaign to crack down on cartels encourages people who have witnessed illegal activity to report it.
As a tempter, whistle-blowers are being offered a bounty of up to £100,000, as well as anonymity.
Recent successes CMA held up include two furniture parts makers it fined £2.8m for agreeing not to compete on price and who would supply customers, and four estate agents who were fined £370,000 for price fixing.
However, a representative for the competition watchdog confirmed that the CMA will be looking for whistle-blowers to come forward across all sectors.
The CMA is getting the word out through an advertising campaign that targets the public on social media, including Twitter and LinkedIn.
"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," said CMA acting chief executive Andrea Coscelli. "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."
Businesses found guilty of involvement in illegal cartels can be fined up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover, while individuals can face up to five years in prison and directors can be disqualified for holding director posts for up to 10 years. However, these punishments can be softened or eliminated altogether where a business or individual comes forward and co-operates, the CMA said.