OFT Clampdown on the Way; ANDREW FINFER, Partner and Head of Competition at Ward Hadaway, Looks at Why Keeping the Right Side of Competition Rules Isn''t Just Something That the Biggest Companies Need to Take Care Of

The Journal (Newcastle, England), October 12, 2011 | Go to article overview

OFT Clampdown on the Way; ANDREW FINFER, Partner and Head of Competition at Ward Hadaway, Looks at Why Keeping the Right Side of Competition Rules Isn''t Just Something That the Biggest Companies Need to Take Care Of


Byline: ANDREW FINFER

HOW often do you hear of a company being fined for infringing competition law - weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Annually? The last fine that may have come to your attention was the pounds 10m imposed on Tesco in August for fixing the price of milk and cheese. A big company being penalised for something that happened a long time ago.

Did it make you think that you could be next? I doubt it. However, the Office of Fair Trading wants to change all that.

It is considering changes in enforcement practice and in the law designed to make compliance with competition law a day to day issue for all companies.

Rather than relying on the deterrent effect of a few high-profile cases, the OFT is considering introducing a "little and often" enforcement policy that will result in most company directors knowing someone who has been fined or disqualified from a directorship for infringing competition law. For SMEs the "little" will be very significant.

At present, the OFT is conducting approximately 23 civil and criminal cases involving infringement of competition law.

Whether a company and the management of a company infringing competition law face investigation and sanctions depends to an extent on the impact of an investigation on the OFT's current case load; if the OFT doesn't have the capacity to investigate - as appeared to be the case when it was dealing with the roofing cartels in England and Scotland - other infringements aren't investigated and the onus of enforcement falls on those harmed by an infringement.

The victims of cartel activity have not had the resources to discover the full extent of the infringement and the damage that has been caused or to engage in costly litigation, particularly if they are SMEs. …

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