A new anonymous whistleblower hotline has been launched by the European Commission to help it detect illegal cartels and other anti-competitive practices.
Meanwhile, the UK Competition & Markets Authority has launched an advertising campaign to promote its own hotline which offers a whistleblower a reward of up to £100,000.
Competition authorities are reliant on intelligence to help them detect anti-competitive practices, particularly secret cartels. The European Commission, CMA and many other national competition authorities offer immunity from fines (or significant reductions) for businesses who confess their cartel to the authority and help the authority to pursue the infringement.
However, the prospect of enormous damages claims - made easier by recent changes to laws in the UK and across in the EU - means a business involved in cartel faces a difficult decision when considering an application for immunity/leniency.
The promotion of whistleblower hotlines for individuals could provide the competition authorities with a valuable alternative source of information. They are aimed at witnesses not actually involved in the cartel. Any individuals actually involved in an infringement will need to consider any personal liability or other consequences they may face before using a whistleblower hotline even on an anonymous basis.