Violations of competition law can have far-reaching consequences for businesses, personnel and possibly shareholders. These consequences may include high fines, reputation damage and huge demands on administrative and financial resources as a consequence of (civil) proceedings. Compliance with competition law is first and foremost the individual responsibility of business. Any employee – however highly or lowly placed – can make a banned agreement, thereby deliberately or accidentally violating competition rules. Such violations are automatically attributed to the company. The risk of infringing competition law increases with the number of employees in your organisation, irrespective of whether you maintain the figurative ‘finger on the pulse’ in supervising all your staff. Implementing a compliance programme can be the ideal solution.
Practice has shown that effective compliance programmes considerably reduce the risk of violating competition law. The attorneys at the Competition and Tendering practice group have rolled out compliance programmes on behalf of a number of leading (international) enterprises, and are permanently involved in providing training programmes for groups of employees. The primary objective of any compliance programme is to keep the staff and management informed of the content and relevance of compliance with competition law. Our specialists believe that to be successful, a compliance programme must be both effective and realistic. As a consequence, instead of focusing on what is not allowed, we above all concentrate on what is permitted, based on up-to-date examples from practice according to a pragmatic and totally tailor-made approach. After all, no two enterprises or markets are the same.
A compliance programme will also assist your business prepare for (unwanted) investigations by the competition authorities. Investigations of this type often start with a ‘dawn raid’, when the supervisor turns up unexpectedly on the company’s doorstep, first thing in the morning, to confiscate written and electronic documents and seize laptops and telephones. Your staff are subjected to interrogation, and in such a situation there is a great deal to loose. A thorough knowledge of the rights and obligations of your company and the employees during and following a company visitation of this kind is vital to protect your rights, and avoid errors.