The CMA recently launched a new cartel awareness campaign in light of research which highlighted a general lack of awareness and understanding of cartels as well as competition law in general.
The awareness campaign has a dedicated website which uses simple imagery, quizzes and short videos to educate individuals and businesses about the effect of cartels and how to spot and report them.
Analysis of the research
Some of the key findings in the research commissioned by the CMA are as follows:
- General awareness of competition law remains low but has increased slightly since the survey conducted in 2014. For example, whilst just a quarter of businesses said they knew competition law “well”, there was a significant decrease in the proportion of businesses who had not heard of competition law at all (from 20% in 2014 to 16% in 2018).
- A large majority of respondents (95%) considered compliance with competition law as important.
- However, only a small minority of respondents (6%) indicated that their business had run training sessions about competition law in the last year. This figure is unchanged from the last survey conducted.
- Awareness of specific anti-competitive behaviours has marginally improved since 2014. For example, a majority of businesses are aware that price fixing can lead to imprisonment (60%) and that it can be illegal to agree prices with competitors (59%). However, there is less awareness around issues such as reselling and the consequences of reporting cartels.
- Awareness of the CMA’s role remains low, with 64% of businesses reporting that they didn’t know who enforces competition law in the UK.
Suggested steps to take
There is no one size fits all approach to competition law compliance and the approach taken by a business will need to be tailored having regard to a number of factors such as industry requirements. A “tick box” compliance exercise should generally be avoided. Recent CMA guidance sets out the following summarised four stage risk management process in relation to competition law compliance which businesses may wish to consider:
- Identifying risks – assess areas of the business’ activities which may present risk from a competition law compliance perspective. These risks will depend on the nature and size of the business in question.
- Analysing and evaluating risks – how serious are the risks which have been identified (high, medium or low)? For example, sales employees who have regular contact with competitors may be considered to be at high risk of sharing sensitive pricing information (whether inadvertently or otherwise).
- Managing risks – implement codes of conduct, training, systems, procedures, policies and compliance programs to appropriately manage the risks. For example, implement a tailored training programme for employees in high risk areas and put in place internal procedures to allow employees to get assistance on competition law issues and, if necessary, report breaches of competition law internally.
- Monitoring and reviewing risks – compliance with competition law is a continuous exercise and risks and procedures should therefore be reviewed periodically.
If you have any questions on these or any other issues relating to competition law and Brexit, do please contact Gustaf Duhs, Partner and Head of Competition & Regulatory, who will be happy to discuss.