What is a cartel?
A cartel is an illegal agreement between two or more competitors not to compete with each other. The sole purpose of cartels is to make more profit at the expense of their customers. There are different types of cartels:
- Price fixing: Competitors illegally agree the price for, or discounts on, goods or services.
- Bid-rigging: Bid-rigging or collusive tendering involves competitors illegally agreeing on who will win a tender. Collusive tendering may take the form of any or all of the specifically prohibited activities, i.e., by fixing prices, sharing markets or limiting access to goods or services.
- Market sharing: Competitors illegally agree on which locations each of them can or cannot operate in, or customers to whom they can or cannot sell.
- Limiting production: Competitors illegally agree to control the amount of goods or services provided, in order to ensure that prices remain high.
Cartels are illegal throughout the European Union. Indeed, throughout the world, cartels are recognised as the most serious breach of competition law.
What’s the harm?
Cartels cause consumers and other businesses to pay more for goods and services without any additional benefit or value to the consumer. Where there is a lack of competition as a result of a cartel, both businesses and consumers suffer. The cost of doing business goes up.
Penalties for breaches
Under the Competition Act 2002 (as amended), a conviction for cartel activity can carry criminal penalties of up to ten years imprisonment for individuals, and fines of up to €5 million or 10% of turnover for individuals and undertakings. A company director convicted of a cartel offence will automatically face disqualification from acting as a director for five years.
How to report a suspected cartel
Cartels are difficult to detect because they are generally conducted in secret. You can help us tackle illegal business behaviour by reporting any information you have on a suspected cartel to the CCPC. There are a number of ways you can contact us with information.
- Contact us directly by phone, email or through our website.
- You may be able to avail of our Cartel Immunity Programme if you have been involved in cartel activity and come forward and report it to us. The Programme is a way for a member of a cartel to avoid prosecution, including fines and jail time, if they are the first member to come forward and reveal their involvement in illegal cartel activity before the CCPC has completed any investigation and referred the matter to the DPP.
- You can report suspected cartel activity anonymously by using our confidential whistleblowing system. Find out more about how you can make an anonymous report.