On June 6, 2023, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) announced an increase in the rewards offered to informants and whistleblowers for reporting unlawful cartel activity, from £100,000 to £250,000. According to the CMA, illegal cartels, or businesses that cheat customers by agreeing not to compete in order to keep prices high, are difficult to detect because businesses go to great lengths to conceal them. For this reason, rewards were increased to encourage witnesses to come forward. The CMA pays monetary rewards to witnesses who provide significant information that leads to a CMA enforcement action involving cartel activity; however, it is important to note that such rewards are granted at the discretion of the CMA, and there is no right to receive a reward.
To date, the CMA reports has uncovered several cartels in the construction, healthcare and consumer products and services industries, and hopes that offering enhanced rewards will help build upon these cases. The CMA has also launched a “Cheating or Competing” campaign to help the public identify illegal anti-competitive practices and better enable witnesses to recognize and report such activity. The campaign encourages witnesses to report illegal activity by protecting their anonymity. The CMA also offers a leniency program that allows businesses or individuals that have engaged in cartel activity to possibly avoid sanctions if they come forward with information about a cartel, provided that certain conditions are met.
According to the CMA, businesses involved in illegal cartels can currently be fined up to 10 percent of their annual turnover, and individuals directly involved in cartel activity face up to 5 years in prison; the company and its directors can be disqualified from holding director positions for up to 15 years.