The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published some useful 60 second guides to competition law. One is for company secretaries (60 secs co secs) and there is another on leniency (60 secs leniency).
Certain businesses are very aware of the risks of breaching competition law – the financial penalties alone can be significant. But whatever business you are in it is worth making yourself familiar with the issues and risks as they may not always be obvious. It is possible for a director to be disqualified for breaches of competition law – see sections 9A to 9E of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 (as amended).
If a company informs the CMA about a breach of the rules (and it is the first one to do so) it can gain immunity from fines, protection from criminal prosecution for its staff and protection from disqualification for its directors. Even if a company is not the first, there can still be benefits from contacting and co-operating with the CMA, depending on the circumstances.
The CMA has been operating for a year, after it was formed from the Competition Commission and parts of the Office of Fair Trading. Its responsibilities include:
- investigating mergers which could restrict competition
- conducting market studies and investigations in markets where there may be competition and consumer problems
- investigating where there may be breaches of UK or EU prohibitions against anti-competitive agreements and abuses of dominant positions
- bringing criminal proceedings against individuals who commit the cartel offence
- enforcing consumer protection legislation to tackle practices and market conditions that make it difficult for consumers to exercise choice
- co-operating with sector regulators and encouraging them to use their competition powers
- considering regulatory references and appeals