Immunity and leniency programmes
A cartel is an agreement or concerted practice between two or more competing undertakings, aimed at co-ordinating their competitive behaviour on the market or influencing the relevant parameters of competition. This is usually achieved through practices such as, but not limited to:
- fixing or co-ordinating buying or selling prices or other trading conditions, including in relation to intellectual property rights
- allocating production or sales quotas
- sharing markets and customers, including
- restricting imports or exports
- anti-competitive actions against other competing undertakings
Generally speaking, we can take enforcement action against cartels in one of two ways:
- criminally, or
Cartels continue to be prosecuted criminally and can attract significant penalties. These include fines for undertakings, and both fines and imprisonment for individuals.
Since August 2022, the CCPC may make a finding that competition law has been infringed and impose administrative financial sanctions. These sanctions are imposed on undertakings and associations of undertakings for breaches of competition law, subject to court confirmation.
The CCPC can decide whether to investigate and pursue a cartel criminally or administratively. Please refer to the CCPC’s Guidance Note on the CCPC’s Choice of Enforcement Regime for Breaches of Competition Law.
Immunity and leniency programmes for cartels
The prohibition of cartels may in principle be enforced both criminally and administratively. As such, there are programmes relating to immunity and leniency for cartel participants for each enforcement route.
The Cartel Immunity Programme (CIP) is operated by the CCPC and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
The CIP outlines the policy of the CCPC and the DPP in considering applications for immunity from criminal prosecution for cartel offences. Applications under the CIP are made to the CCPC. It is the DPP that decides whether immunity will be granted, having received a recommendation from the CCPC.
The CCPC also has its own Administrative Leniency Policy (ALP). This relates to administrative proceedings.
The ALP sets out the policy that applies to administrative enforcement proceedings before the CCPC. It details the circumstances in which the CCPC will grant leniency. Leniency in the administrative context may involve:
- full immunity from financial sanctions, or
- a reduction of the administrative fine that would otherwise have been imposed
The CCPC recommends that an applicant files applications under both the CIP and the ALP. This is because the enforcement route may change as the investigation progresses.
For further details on the interaction between the CIP and the ALP please refer to the following documents:
- Guidance Note on the Interaction between the Cartel Immunity Programme (CIP) and
- Administrative Leniency Policy for Cartels (ALP)
Both the CIP and the ALP are important tools in uncovering, investigating and prosecuting cartels. Cartels are by their very nature clandestine and secretive. By providing for immunity or leniency, participants in a cartel are encouraged to come forward. These programmes can assist in:
- uncovering cartels, and
- providing evidence for the administrative or criminal prosecution of cartel members
The programmes are also intended to prevent cartels from forming in the first place. Those considering entering into a cartel know that other participants may alert the CCPC to the existence of the cartel.
Immunity and leniency applications for cartels
Applications for both immunity and leniency are made to the CCPC.
You can call the immunity and leniency phone on 087 763 1378 to make an application to the CCPC. The phone line is open between the hours of 10am and 5pm Monday to Friday, except on public or bank holidays.
In general, in order to qualify for immunity or leniency:
- you should come forward as soon as possible
- you must not do anything to alert your former associates that you have applied for immunity or leniency
- you must co-operate completely with the investigation
- you must provide full and truthful disclosures
- in the case of a company or corporation, the application must be a corporate act
Resale price maintenance
Resale price maintenance (RPM) is a practice whereby a manufacturer or supplier sets a fixed or minimum resale price. RPM is an established anti-competitive practice prohibited by law.
Administrative leniency can be applied in certain circumstances where applicants have participated in RPM. Generally speaking, the conditions and procedures that apply to cartel applicants under the ALP also apply to RPM applicants. For further details, please read the Administrative Leniency Policy.
For more information on the CIP, the ALP or the interaction between the two, please read: