Competition – press release

Public procurers learn how to spot bid-rigging

Public procurers will be more able to spot and prevent bid-rigging and save taxpayers’ money with the launch of a new e-learning package.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) have worked together to create the e-learning module which will help more than 4,000 central government procurers root out attempts to win contracts through anti-competitive conduct.

In 2013/14 the UK public sector spent £242 billion on procurement of goods and services. Evidence suggests that cartels – of which bid-rigging forms a part – overcharge by up to 30%, costing taxpayers millions of pounds and leading to poor service.

John Kirkpatrick, CMA Senior Director Research, Intelligence and Advocacy, said:

It is vital that taxpayers’ money is spent well on projects that are of benefit to the public, rather than costs being pushed up unfairly by bid-rigging. We hope this bid-rigging e-learning package will prove to be a very useful tool for procurers in helping them spot and prevent attempts to rig procurement processes.

The CMA has a hotline which people can call if they suspect cases of bid-rigging or other anti-competitive practices, so I urge anyone with doubts to call.

Ian Mackie, CCS Head of Commercial Learning and Development, said:

Increasing commercial capability is a priority skills area for the civil service, so we, along with our departmental colleagues, were delighted to work with CMA to support this learning module. Hosting this on the CCS Learning Hub and the commercial curriculum will enhance the contract management learning already available to staff.

Bid-rigging involves competing businesses which are invited to bid in competitive tenders secretly colluding so that, contrary to appearances, they are not fully competing for the contract. Bid-rigging tends to drive up prices by removing genuine competition between bidders.

It is a serious infringement of competition law, which can lead to fines and liability to damages for the companies involved. It can also result in criminal sanctions (including possible imprisonment) for individuals.

The e-learning module is available through the CCS hub. Public procurers who do not have access to the hub can email and request to be set up on the learning hub.

The module, which is intended to take no more than 40 minutes to complete, will help students to gain an awareness of why bid-rigging is harmful, what kinds of activities and patterns of behaviour they should watch out for, what they can do to mitigate risks and where they can go to get help if they suspect a case.

Notes for editors

  1. The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law. For more information see the CMA’s homepage on GOV.UK. For CMA updates, follow us on Twitter @CMAgovuk, Flickr and LinkedIn.
  2. Please contact the cartels hotline on 0800 085 1664 or 020 3738 6888 or email, if you suspect instances of bid-rigging.
  3. To learn more, look at CMA guidance ‘Bid-rigging: advice for public sector procurers’.
  4. For more information on the Crown Commercial Service see its webpages.
  5. Enquiries should be directed Simon Belgard (, 020 3738 6472).