District's lawyers asked to help competition law awareness

Law firms across the Harrogate District are to be contacted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and encouraged to share its competition law information with their small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) clients.

Thursday, 16th June 2016, 10:48 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 5:58 pm
Only 53 per cent of businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber were aware that price-fixing can lead to imprisonment. (S)

The information is intended to help SMEs recognise anti-competitive practices, comply with competition law and report suspicions of illegal anti-competitive activity.

The approach is part of the CMA’s drive to boost awareness of, and compliance with, competition law, following the launch of its ‘Competing fairly in business: Advice for small businesses’ materials.

At least seven law firms in the Harrogate District are to be contacted by the CMA, and around 120 in Yorkshire and the Humber as a whole. The region is the fifth to be chosen for an awareness-raising drive as research shows that businesses’ understanding of competition law in the area is low.

According to the CMA’s survey, only 58 per cent of businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber know that bid-rigging is illegal, and just 53 per cent know that price-fixing can lead to imprisonment.

Only 41 per cent know that dominant firms are under a special responsibility not to allow their conduct to impair competition, and just 29 per cent know that setting the price at which others can resell products is illegal.

The consequences of breaching competition law can be severe. Businesses can be fined up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover, and directors can be disqualified for up to 15 years.

Involved in a cartel can mean up to five years in prison, yet admitting to the offence can lead to immunity – something just 18 per cent of businesses in the region are aware of. Reporting cartel activity can even lead to a reward.

Ann Pope, CMA Senior Director of Antitrust Enforcement, said: “The victims of anti-competitive activity can often be other businesses, so knowing what illegal behaviour looks like and how to report it can help small and medium-sized businesses protect themselves.

“The potential consequences of breaking the law are very serious. That is why it is important that all businesses know what to look out for and report suspected breaches to the CMA.

“Legal advisers to SMEs are ideally placed to help raise awareness of competition law among their clients.”