The CMA announces an increase in its cartel whistleblowing reward

On 6 June 2023, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced that it has more than doubled its maximum reward for informants who blow the whistle on cartel activity. Having previously been set at a value of ‘up to £100,000’, the reward has now been raised to up to £250,000 as part of the CMA’s renewed effort to detect cartels.

What is the CMA’s whistleblower reward programme?

As cartels are generally conducted in secret, the CMA relies on information provided by individuals and businesses to detect cartels and to investigate suspected breaches of the competition rules.

Whistleblower rewards were introduced in 2017 as part of the CMA’s “Cracking Down on Cartels” campaign. While rewards are at the discretion of the CMA, the CMA has indicated that it will pay a reward if the information concerned is significant in nature and leads to enforcement action by the CMA. The informant must not have participated in the conduct.

Whistleblower rewards sit alongside the CMA’s leniency programme, whereby a business or an individual that has participated in a cartel has an opportunity to escape sanctions (subject to conditions) if they disclose information about the cartel to the CMA. 

What does the change to the reward programme mean?

The CMA has stated that it needs to encourage people to come forward and provide it with the information that it needs to crack down on cartels. Against a backdrop of a general trend of a decline in leniency applications, the CMA’s improved whistleblower reward provides a clear signal that the detection and elimination of cartels remains a strategic priority of the CMA.

The consequences of falling foul of competition laws can be severe, including the risk of significant financial penalties, as well as adverse publicity and harm to reputation. Organisations can however protect themselves and mitigate their risk of breaching competition laws by ensuring that they understand how competition law impacts their businesses, implementing effective compliance measures and refreshing these on a regular basis to ensure they remain fit for purpose. 

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