back to article 41% of Brit biz: Setting up a price-rigging cartel is all good... isn't it?

More than a third of British businesses apparently don’t think it’s a crime to set up a price-rigging cartel, according to the Competition and Markets Authority. Research commissioned by the CMA, which appears to be on a self-publicity drive as well as attempting to stimulate awareness of competition law in the UK, supposedly …

  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

    "a whopping 35 per cent thought dividing up customers between rivals was also legal"

    And yet, that's exactly what some companies (and their disties) do.

    The CMA is publishing this as a warning shot across the bows.

    Companies which believe they have "exclusive UK distribution rights" and attempt to block acquisition (or even threaten to do so in an attempt to intimidate a customer) are also at risk of having their collar felt by the CMA.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Depends on where the alternative supply is from. If it's from outside the EU then there are plenty of cases where the manufacturer has used trademark law to block what they consider "illegal" imports. When I first came across that, it was a real WFT moment.

      How on earth can it be valid to say that a pair of (eg) Levi jeans, made by a factory under a contract from Levi, be a "counterfeit" product for no reason other than Levi didn't intend for that specific pair of jeans to be sold in the EU ? Yet, that's exactly what's happened on more than one occasion - allowing the manufacturer to apply differential pricing, screwing customers in countries where it thinks it can get away with it, and using bogus trademark infringerment claims to block imports from countries where it can't gouge the customers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Using Trademark law to seize grey imports

        A good current example, is where a few days ago Apple had (legit) Apple parts from overseas seized by customs. All to stop a well known third party repair shop being able to repair customer products:

  2. LateAgain

    Where as using "region encoding" to set price by country is OK

    As used by the entire music / film industry rather than change their business model when the world passed them by.

  3. Archtech Silver badge

    Purely decorative laws

    Laws forbidding cartels and price-fixing (or agreeing levels of service, quality, etc.) are essentially dead letters. The laws were passed so that politicians could be seen to be "doing something". They are not enforced partly because it would be well-nigh impossible to do so, and partly because the main beneficiaries of cartels are precisely the big corporations who contribute most to campaign funds.

    It's like insider trading. Let any ordinary person take advantage of a tip heard from an acquaintance to buy a few thousand pounds worth of shares and make a profit of a few hundred - off they go to prison. (Martha Stewart was a classic example).

    Meanwhile whole financial industries revolve around the systematic exploitation of insider information; they, however, are off-limits to prosecutors.

  4. Geekpride

    In othe words

    We're all getting screwed. And not in the enjoyable way.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Education, communication, enforcement and transparency needed

    Similar issues in Canada. Obvious violations of Canada's anti-combine laws are seen everywhere but are often most noticeable with New Canadian business owners.

    That may not be the case in the UK but in Canada about 20% of Canadians were born elsewhere and another 20% of Canadians are their children. That is a large chunk of our population whose culture and business practices originate outside of Canada.

    New and Non-Canadians have more programs and incentives to encourage them to buy and create small businesses and as a result own a large percentage of our industry and businesses. The result are stereotypes but that does not change the facts. 20% of Canadians not born in Canada, 20% with a parent not born in Canada and 20% from Quebec.

    With so many different cultures running our businesses we cannot assume a common understanding of the many laws involved. Each will operate according to their own ideas, how else could they operate?

    In such an environment what is enforced decides what the real laws and business culture will be. This was made clear to me when I successfully pointed out some of the illegal business practices being used by a friends family business.

    In that case the New Canadian was adamant they were breaking no laws until I proved otherwise by finding a copy of the acts and some rulings on the practices they were using. His response was to point out that Canada is a fool, they wouldn't change a thing. I was a little set back but now see his point.

    From his POV if Canada was taking those laws seriously there would be regular inspections by government agents and regular enforcement. In his culture and home country the government does just that. His home country does not expect citizens to follow the law just because it is the right thing to do (which was/is the case in Canada).

    From his POV it is foolish to think citizens will generally follow laws just because the rulers said so. Citizens follow laws because they are actively enforced, because governments actively looks for violations and make punishment public when they do find violations.

    To him, and maybe most people around the world, the assumption that citizens are willingly following laws is foolish. The under enforcement that results from such thinking would allow the mice to play, so to speak, and the mice should not apologize for that.

    He pointed out that his home country has many more laws than Canada but the only ones of concern are those that are enforced and only the very expensive really matter.

    Publicizing charges, identifying those companies and officers who are convicted is political so we rarely hear about them.

    Other enforcement agencies rarely make any public announcements about enforcement or punishment. Business owners cannot easily look to enforcement and it's results to determine what is or isn't acceptable.

    For those that doubt I'd suggest searching "Canada white-collar crime haven".

    Canada has some of the worlds best laws, particularly when it comes to business, but they mean nothing if not enforced and the results made public. That they are not enforced is IMO an ongoing failure of our democratic systems. Current practices are dangerously insidious hiding behind a non-transparent bureaucracy. The result is a rotting of our foundations and may be hastening an "uncontrolled restructuring".

    Seems to me the CMA are on the right track, as long as fair and equal enforcement with the results being made public is part of their ongoing campaign. I'll not hold my breath or comments waiting for that but hey they might lead the free world when it comes to ensuring business act in the interest of citizens, they might save us all. Thumbs up for that possibility. .

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