EU Competition Law Compliance Update

December 9, 2011

The UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has published the results of a survey of UK companies identifying the competition law compliance measures that they adopt.

The results are included in a study published by the OFT on 7 December 2011. The study considers what drives businesses to comply with competition law and what deters them from trying to infringe it (“The impact of competition interventions on compliance and deterrence” [December 2011; document OFT1391]). The study identifies three key pillars that drive competition law compliance: knowledge and awareness of the law, sanctions and enforcement by regulators, and voluntary compliance measures.

Based on a survey of more than 800 companies in the UK, the study lists the most common compliance measures used by businesses. For small companies (fewer than 200 employees), the top four measures are, in order: taking external legal advice, carrying out a competition risk assessment, having a formal competition law code of conduct or compliance programme, and holding training for employees on competition law issues. For large companies (200 or more employees), the top four measures are the same, but the positions of a code of conduct and training are reversed.

The OFT continually emphasises the importance of competition law compliance measures, and it has indicated that it will take these into account when enforcing competition law against both companies and individuals. These can (and should) be tailored to the company in question, but any well-run company will have suitable measures in place and will continually update and review these as part of its overall compliance programme. This approach will reduce the likelihood of employees breaking the law and therefore help to protect a company against what the survey finds is the most worrying issue arising out of a breach, even more worrying than fines – reputational damage for the company.