Commerce Commission renews warning for businesses over cartel conduct

Commerce Commission renews warning for businesses over cartel conduct
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Business owners are being sent a renewed warning that they could be jailed if they get involved in cartel activity.

The financial penalties for cartel conduct are significant, the Commerce Commission says. People can be fined up to $500,000 and companies can be fined up to $10 million, or three times the commercial gain or 10 percent of turnover per year per breach.

Since April 2021, businesses and individuals can also be liable for criminal conviction and individuals convicted of engaging in cartel conduct could face imprisonment.

"Cartel conduct harms consumers through higher prices or reduced quality, and it harms other businesses that are trying to compete fairly," says Commerce Commission chairperson Anna Rawlings.

"The possibility of imprisonment for cartel conduct underlines just how serious and harmful this offending is."

Law changes introduced last year mean people involved in cartels can now be liable for an up to seven-year prison sentence.

The Commerce Commission is running a new campaign to help educate directors, business owners, managers, and employees about cartels and how to report them. It shows examples of situations where competitors agree to fix prices, divide markets, and rig bids - all of which are illegal.

"Businesses and their staff need to be able to recognise and avoid the kinds of business conduct that amount to cartel conduct," Rawlings says.

"This campaign is part of a range of educational initiatives by the Commission to help increase businesses' understanding of cartel conduct and its consequences."

Businesses or people who want to report cartel conduct can contact the Commerce Commission. Businesses and individuals can also use the Commission's anonymous whistleblower tool.