There are severe penalties for individuals and businesses that engage in cartels - individuals can be sent to prison for up to five years and businesses can be fined up to 10 per cent of worldwide turnover.
However there are incentives for individuals and businesses to stop such practices and tell the OFT about the cartel.
If you are part of a cartel and want to end your involvement, your business may benefit from the OFT's leniency programme and you may benefit from a no-action letter.
In the context of the Competition Act and/or Article 101 TFEU, a business may receive total or partial immunity from fines that the OFT could apply for infringements of the Competition Act and/or Article 101 TFEU if it comes forward with information.
Total immunity is available to the first member of the cartel to come forward with relevant information, and who also meets other conditions.
Reductions in penalty of up to 50 per cent are also available in other circumstances.
Individuals who come forward with information about their involvement in a criminal cartel offence may be granted immunity from prosecution in the form of a 'no-action letter' issued by the OFT. In order to benefit from a no-action letter, an individual must satisfy certain conditions, including admitting participation in the criminal offence and maintaining continuous and complete cooperation throughout the investigation.
No-action letters cannot be issued in respect of offences committed in Scotland. However, the OFT will report the level of co-operation of relevant individuals to the Lord Advocate, who will give 'serious weight' to any OFT recommendation that immunity should be granted and will also take cognisance of the OFT's published leniency guidance.
If you want to take advantage of the leniency programme or apply for a no-action letter you should call the Leniency enquiry line on 020 7211 8833.
More information on the OFT's procedures for handling applications under its leniency and no action policies is available by downloading Leniency and no-action (pdf 603 kb). This document supplements and elaborates the OFT's guidance as to the appropriate amount of a penalty (pdf 146 kb). For information on the handling of leniency applications involving cartel activity in Scotland see Memorandum of Understanding (pdf 71 kb).
The OFT has published its final revised Guide to applications for leniency and no-action in cartel cases (pdf 1.2Mb), which takes effect from 8 July 2013.
In addition, the OFT has also published two Quick Guides:
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