The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which will take over the functions of the OFT on 1 April 2014, has launched a consultation about how the CMA will work in practice and how it will interact with businesses and individuals.
This includes the publication of draft prosecution guidance on the criminal cartel offence. The guidance sets out some of the considerations that the CMA will take into account when deciding whether to prosecute the cartel offence, in particular in relation to the new exclusions in section 188A and defences in section 188B of the Enterprise Act 2002 (as amended by section 47 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013). It is worth noting that the CMA takes the view that the term ‘professional legal advisers’ in the legal advice defence in subsection 188B(3) refers to both external and in-house legal advisers. The guidance states that an individual must show that they have made a genuine attempt to seek legal advice about the arrangement, but there is no mention of whether the advice needs to be followed.
The guidance also sets out a number of considerations that the CMA will take into account when deciding whether it is in the public interest to prosecute:
- The seriousness of the offence;
- The level of culpability of the suspects;
- The impact on the community; and
- Whether prosecution is a proportionate response.
In parallel, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has published draft secondary legislation in relation to the UK’s competition regime. This includes a draft Order for the publishing of relevant information under section 188A of the Enterprise Act 2002. The draft Order specifies that relevant information is published if it is advertised once in any of the London Gazette, the Edinburgh Gazette and the Belfast Gazette.
The consultations close on 11 November 2013.