Issue: suspected breaches of competition law by a number of
retailers and suppliers.
Relevant provision: Chapter I prohibition, Competition Act 1998.
In April 2008, following the receipt of substantial evidence from
more than one source, the OFT opened a formal investigation under the
Competition Act 1998 (the 'Act') into suspected breaches of
competition law by a number of retailers and suppliers, across a range
of product areas in the UK grocery sector (see note 1).
The investigation examined whether suspected indirect retail price
co-ordination involving suppliers and retailers had occurred between
2005 and early 2008 (so called A-B-C information exchanges) across a
number of products.
As part of this investigation, the OFT has conducted a thorough
review of a significant body of material (including material provided by
several leniency applicants) (see note 2). This review process also
involved the OFT seeking further information from many parties.
Following the conclusion of this review, the OFT considered the
future of the investigation in light of its prioritisation principles
and concluded that it was appropriate to close the investigation on
administrative priorities grounds. In reaching this decision, the OFT
also had careful regard to comments from the parties under
The decision to close this investigation on administrative priority
grounds does not amount to a statement as to whether a party acted
illegally and nor should any implication be taken that any party was
The following considerations were collectively relevant in the OFT
reaching this conclusion:
the impact of pursuing the investigation given the apparent positive
influence of competition compliance initiatives across the sector
the deterrence impact and strategic significance of pursuing the
investigation, given the OFT's previous and ongoing competition
enforcement involving indirect information exchange, and
the resource implications of pursuing the investigation.
The decision to close this investigation should not be taken to imply
that the OFT would not prioritise suspected A-B-C information exchanges
in the future.
The OFT wishes to support business seeking to achieve a competition
law compliance culture and has been working with business and other
groups to do so (see note 3). It is currently consulting on two guidance
documents that aim to help businesses and company directors comply with
competition law. It is also considering future work to assist businesses
to comply with competition law.
- By virtue of section 25 of the Act, the OFT may commence an
investigation where there are reasonable grounds to suspect an
infringement of the Chapter I and/or Chapter II prohibitions of the
- Under the OFT's leniency policy, a company may seek leniency where
there is a concrete basis for suspicion that it has engaged in
behaviour which has breached certain types of competition law. The
receipt of a leniency application does not mean that the OFT will
automatically find an infringement of competition law has occurred.
- Further details on this can be in the press release OFT consults on
Published 1 November 2010