Avoid and report anti-competitive activity

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Types of anti-competitive activity

You must avoid all types of anti-competitive activity in your business including:

  • agreeing not to compete with another business
  • abusing a dominant position

You can report anti-competitive activity if you see it.

Agreeing not to compete with another business (‘cartels’)

If 2 or more businesses agree not to compete with each other in certain ways, it’s called a ‘cartel’.

The rules on cartels apply to businesses of any size.

Rules about cartels cover:

  • price fixing
  • bid rigging
  • sharing markets or customers
  • sharing commercially sensitive information

An agreement does not have to be in writing for it to be illegal. You can break the law if you have an informal conversation (or ‘gentleman’s agreement’) with another business, even if the agreement is not carried out.

You can work with other businesses without breaking competition law. Get legal advice or contact the Competition Pro Bono Scheme if you need to, and make sure you manage any risks.

Price fixing

You must not discuss the prices you’re going to charge your customers with your competitors.

You’ll be breaking the law if you agree with another business:

  • to charge the same prices to your customers
  • to offer discounts or increase your prices at the same time
  • to charge the same fees to intermediaries, for example retailers selling your products

Bid rigging

You cannot discuss bids for a contract tender with your competitors. Bid rigging includes:

  • agreeing with your competitors how much you’ll bid for a contract or share information about your bid
  • taking turns to win contracts
  • asking other businesses to bid when they do not want the contract (called ‘cover bids’)
  • paying other businesses not to bid or when you win a tender
  • agreeing with other businesses not to bid or to withdrawing your bid

Market sharing

You cannot agree with other businesses to share markets or customers. You’ll be breaking competition law if you agree with another business:

  • not to approach each other’s customers
  • not to compete with them for customers, for example in specific locations

Sharing information

You cannot share information with other businesses that might reduce competition between you, for example information about:

  • prices
  • production
  • your suppliers, customers or contractors
  • the markets you sell or plan to sell to

This includes sharing information through a third party, for example a trade association.

Abusing a dominant position

Your business might have a ‘dominant position’ in the market if:

  • it has more than a 40% market share
  • it’s not affected by normal competitive restraints

You might be abusing your dominant position if you’re unfair to your customers or other businesses, for example you:

  • treat customers differently, for example by offering different prices or terms to similar customers
  • make customers buy products they do not want, for example forcing them to take warranties for electrical products
  • charge low prices that do not cover your costs so you drive out competitors

If you think you have a dominant market position, get legal advice or contact the Competition Pro Bono Scheme to find out what you can and cannot do.

Other anti-competitive activities

You must avoid other activities that break competition law, eg:

  • buying or selling jointly with your competitors
  • agreeing with your competitors to reduce production of something to raise its market value
  • restricting how much other businesses can sell your product for
  • agreeing with your competitors not to sell to certain customers or deal with certain suppliers
  • having long-term exclusive contracts with any customers or suppliers