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Press releases 2002 -

OFT consults on Enterprise Bill cartel powers

PN 42/02    15 July 2002

The OFT today published draft guidance for consultation on the granting of immunity from criminal prosecution to individuals who blow the whistle on cartels.

The guidance describes the circumstances in which the OFT will issue to individuals who cooperate with the OFT 'no-action' letters confirming that they will not be prosecuted for their own part in the cartel. Comments are invited on the guidance from anyone with an interest including consumer bodies, legal practitioners and business organisations.

John Vickers, Director General of Fair Trading, said:

'Leniency arrangements help uncover cartels. They operate already for companies, and we are consulting now on how to establish clear, fair and effective criteria for granting individuals who cooperate with the OFT immunity from prosecution under the criminal cartel offence provisions of the Enterprise Bill.'

This is the third in a series of draft guidance documents published for comment. Previous documents have covered the following topics:

  • Competition Disqualification Orders. This document sets out the circumstances in which the OFT is likely to apply for a Competition Disqualification Order as well as the relevant OFT procedure. Disqualification Orders may be sought against more company directors who are associated with a breach of competition law
  • Market Investigation References. This document explains when the OFT or regulators with concurrent powers are likely to make market investigation references to the Competition Commission.

Further draft guidance documents will be published for comment on the following areas:

  • super-complaints
  • mergers
  • investigatory powers
  • information exchange
  • consumer reforms
  • general implications of the Enterprise Bill.

Following comments and amendments resulting from the consultation exercise, the final guidance documents will be published early in 2003. The new legislation is expected to come into effect in the spring of 2003.

NOTES

1. Download the guidance No-action letters for individuals (pdf file 81 kb).

2. Copies of the draft guidance can also be ordered from the Publications section of the website (then see Business leaflets/Enterprise Bill) or telephone 0870 60 60 321. Summaries of all the draft guidance documents are also available from the website in Welsh.

3. The consultation is being carried out in accordance with the provisions in the Consultation Code of Practice prepared by the Cabinet Office.

4. Each consultation period will last 12 weeks. The timetable for each consultation is given in the guidance document concerned.

5. The Enterprise Bill is currently being considered by the House of Lords and may therefore be subject to amendments during the consultation period. If this occurs the OFT will keep all consultees informed of any substantial changes. The Enterprise Bill is expected to receive royal assent in the autumn and should come into effect in the late spring of 2003.

6. A summary document providing guidance on the main provisions of the Enterprise Bill will also be published in the autumn for information.

7. The Enterprise Bill proposes to replace the office of the Director General of Fair Trading with a board which will become the OFT. The OFT will take over the Director General of Fair Trading's functions.




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