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Cartels & Illegal Price Fixing

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigates suspected cartels which are a particularly damaging form of anti-competitive activity. A cartel is an agreement between competitors to fix prices, share markets, rig bids or limit output at the expense of the interests of customers.

Prosecutions may only be brought by the CMA or the Serious Fraud Office against individuals.

Individuals found guilty of an offence can face imprisonment, unlimited financial penalties and disqualification as director. Companies are only subject to the civil enforcement regime.

The CMA and SFO are seeking cartel convictions. If a business finds out that staff have been involved in cartel conduct that can be devastating news. Corporates and individuals alike need to have a strategy and good advice to deal with these issues to avoid lengthy investigations which can cause huge financial, personal and reputational consequences.

It is possible for companies and individuals to approach the CMA for ‘immunity’ or ‘leniency’ – which if granted depends on a number of factors. However, if you are thinking of co-operating with the CMA and engage in the leniency program it is essential to obtain specialist criminal law advice in the first instance.

Companies should anticipate how they would respond an investigation where individuals are also prosecuted and review their policies and training programmes to mitigate the risk of anti- competitive behaviour. Individuals should be aware that criminal investigations and prosecutions can take years and can have a detrimental effect if accused.

Our Experience

  • Advised fund manager interviewed as part of a FCA investigation into asset management firms for anti-competitive behaviour during IPOs.

  • Advised senior manager in electrical sector relation to price fixing offence, internal investigation and ‘leniency’ procedure with the CMA.

  • Advised retailer in musical instrument sector on CMA investigation relating to suspected anti- competitive online pricing arrangements.

  • Defended director of pharmaceutical company prosecuted by SFO for an alleged conspiracy to defraud the NHS by conspiring to fix the price and supply of generic drugs.


We can discuss the funding options, the proposed scope of work and budget with you. Depending on the situation, you should check whether you have any legal expenses insurance (for example under professional indemnity, Directors’ & Officers’ or household insurance policies) or consider whether a third party, such as an employer, will contribute to your legal fees (eg under an indemnity).

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