Economic and Legal Implications for the EU Member States
Edited by Katalin J. Cseres, Maarten Pieter Schinkel and Floris O.W. Vogelaar
Chapter 13: The UK’s Experience with Criminal Law Sanctions
Diana Guy 1 INTRODUCTION The UK competition regime has undergone dramatic reform over the past eight years. A number of key legislative changes have transformed one of the weakest competition regimes in Europe into one of the strongest. As part of these fundamental changes, policy-makers have speciﬁcally targeted the most serious form of competition abuse – the operation of hard-core cartels such as price ﬁxing agreements between competitors. Financial penalties for undertakings found guilty of operating a cartel were not considered to be a sufﬁcient deterrent against an offence which causes high levels of damage to the economy each year. Consequently, the UK has followed the lead of countries such as the United States, Canada and Ireland by introducing criminal penalties for individuals, including imprisonment for executives and other employees found to have been personally involved in hard-core collusion with a competitor. Australia has just announced it will introduce a similar regime. In this chapter, I discuss the reasons why the UK Government considered it necessary to introduce criminal sanctions against individuals, and the UK competition authorities’ experience with their new powers in the ﬁght against the most serious contraventions of competition law. 2 TRANSFORMING THE UK’S COMPETITION LAW Prior to the implementation of the new competition regime in 2000,1 competition authorities in the UK were relatively toothless in combating and deterring anti-competitive behaviour. The restrictive trade practices legislation2 that was ﬁrst passed in the mid 1950s had become outdated and ineffective. Even the most serious cartels could...
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