A campaign aimed at cracking down on cartels by encouraging people to report illegal cartel activity has been launched by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA). This is the first ad campaign by the CMA; the government body responsible for promoting competition for the benefit of consumers, in the UK. Running across digital and social media, the campaign has been created by TMW Unlimited to de-mystify cartels, contextualise the issue of anti-competitive cartel behaviour and incentivise reporting. It highlights the serious consequences for companies and individuals who cheat customers by engaging in cartel activity. These can include fines, disqualification from being a company director and even imprisonment.
The CMA is already taking enforcement action against a range of cartel activity. This includes the recent case where four Somerset estate agents agreed to pay fines totalling over £370,000 after admitting an illegal price-fixing cartel. For more than a year they colluded to set minimum commission rates at 1.5%, denying local home-owners selling their properties the chance to get a better deal. In another case, the managing director of an online supplier of posters was recently disqualified from being a company director for five years for his participation in a price-fixing cartel. Other examples of activity the CMA is working to stop include companies agreeing to allocate customers or divide territories and bid rigging.
Ads will run on LinkedIn, Twitter and digital display targeting business owners, C-suite executives and procurement officers in companies of all sizes. The audiences will be directed to a bespoke website (www.stopcartels.campaign.gov.uk) to learn more about anti-competitive behaviour and find out how to report it. Display advertising breaks today (20th March), with media planning and buying by Carat.
Karen Campbell White, Head of Campaigns and Compliance, at the Competition & Markets Authority, said: “This campaign is really important for the work of the CMA. Cartels are a form of cheating, which stops businesses competing making it impossible for customers to get the best deal. That is why we are committed to tackling them wherever we find them, and bringing the perpetrators to justice. Our campaign unapologetically drives home the seriousness of cartel behaviour. It will reach out to both whistleblowers, who have information about cartel behaviour, and the perpetrators, in an effort to stop them.” Michael Browne, Planner at TMW Unlimited added: “Anti-competitive business practices like price fixing, bid-rigging and dividing territories ultimately means that UK consumers don’t get a fair deal. This new campaign aims to drive awareness of these practices and the severe penalties if convicted. TMW Unlimited are proud to be part of such important work that shines a light on cartel behaviour and pushes the fairness agenda.”