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Consequences of breaking the law

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Financial penalties

Businesses that infringe competition law can be fined up to 10% of their annual worldwide turnover. The OFT has published guidance explaining how we will set a financial penalty and will have regard to this when setting penalties: for further information see the OFT's guidance as to the appropriate amount of a penalty.

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Small businesses may be immune from financial penalties under CA98. There is no immunity, however, for those involved in price-fixing agreements or in relation to infringements of Article 81 or Article 82 of the EC Treaty.

This immunity applies only to financial penalties: an anti-competitive agreement or an abuse of a dominant position is still an infringement. We may still take enforcement action and third parties may still claim damages.

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Other consequences

  • Agreements that infringe Chapter I or Article 81 are void and cannot be enforced.
  • Under the Enterprise Act 2002, it is a criminal offence for individuals to engage dishonestly in cartels. Individuals found guilty by a court can be imprisoned for up to five years and face an unlimited fine: see the OFT's Enterprise Act guidance The cartel offence: guidance on the issue of no-action letters for individuals.
  • Company directors whose companies breach competition law may be subject to competition disqualification orders, which will prevent them from being involved in the management of a company for up to 15 years: see the OFT Enterprise Act guidance Competition disqualification orders.
  • Damages claims can be brought by third parties and by consumer groups on behalf of named consumers against businesses that breach competition law

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Further information

See the guideline Enforcement and the OFT's guidance as to the appropriate amount of a penalty. See also Cartels.

Back to: Competition Act 1998

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