Over 120 law firms headquartered in the north-west of England will be contacted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and encouraged to share its competition law information with their small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) clients.
This could be particularly pertinent for the catering equipment industry given the ongoing investigation into price fixing in the sector and that many distributors are small businesses.
The information is intended to help SMEs recognise anti-competitive practices, comply with competition law and report suspicions of illegal anti-competitive activity.
The approach is part of the CMA’s ongoing drive to boost awareness of, and compliance with, competition law, following the launch of its competing fairly in business advice materials for small businesses.
The north-west is the third region of the country to be chosen as the target of an awareness-raising drive as CMA’s research shows that businesses’ understanding of competition law in the area is low:
Less than half of businesses in the North West (48%) knew that price-fixing could lead to imprisonment, while only 49% knew that bid-rigging is illegal.
Less than a third (29%) knew that setting the price at which others can resell your product is illegal, and only 15% of businesses knew that admitting to participating in a cartel could lead to immunity from a penalty.
Ann Pope, CMA senior director of antitrust enforcement, said: “The victims of anti-competitive activity can often be other businesses, so knowing what illegal behaviour looks like and how to report it can help small and medium-sized businesses protect themselves.
“The potential consequences of breaking the law are very serious. That is why it is important that all businesses know what to look out for and report suspected breaches to the CMA.
“Legal advisers to SMEs are ideally placed to help raise awareness of competition law among their clients.”
Isabel Taylor, chair of the competition section at the Law Society, said: “Regional law firms can play an important role in explaining to their clients why they need to know about competition law.
“The CMA’s compliance and reporting materials are short, simple and clear and explain why businesses need to be able to identify unfair, illegal and anti-competitive practices.”