Will a new approach lead to more UK criminal cartel prosecutions?

Cartels — that is an agreement between actual or potential competitors to fix prices, share markets, allocate customers, limit production or rig bids — have always been considered the most serious EU and UK competition law infringements. They can often lead to higher prices and lower volumes of production, causing significant economic damage to consumers, businesses and the economy as a whole.

Huge civil fines can be imposed on companies (e.g. up to 10 per cent of a group’s worldwide turnover) and individuals, too, may face criminal sanctions (fines and imprisonment of up to five years in the UK). In the UK, company directors can also be disqualified for as long as 15 years for any involvement in cartel activity.

In the UK, the competition law regime is on the verge of its most fundamental and comprehensive set of reforms in recent years, due to be implemented by April 2014. One of the most notable and important changes for individuals, in particular directors and senior managers, is the removal of the ‘dishonesty requirement’ from the UK’s criminal cartel offence (which is supposed to increase the rate of successful prosecutions) and new powers to require individuals to answer oral and written questions compulsorily…

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