The UK competition authority, the Office of Fair Trading (‘OFT’) has published new guidance for undertakings on competition law compliance. The new guidance of the OFT is published to help undertakings to create awareness of competition law within their undertaking. The OFT pays special attention to directors and their responsibility in creating competition law awareness.
In 2010 the OFT published research showing business awareness of competition law has grown but has further to go. Business knowledge of competition law has doubled the last four years. According to the OFT this is a good result, but it needs to increase further. The new guidance documents are published to help to increase this awareness. It includes a film in which the essence of competition law is explained, a four step compliance wheel to ensure business compliance with competition law and a quick guide on competition law compliance.
The OFT pays special attention in her guidance documents to directors, such as members of the board of management and managers. According to the OFT directors are key to establishing and maintaining an effective compliance culture within their company. Therefore the OFT will take into account the individual director’s level of commitment to competition law compliance and the steps he took to prevent, detect and bring to an end infringements of competition law when determining the extent of the director’s responsibility for an infringement. With this message the OFT provides an incentive for directors to actively devote themselves to set up a compliance program and to prevent, detect and bring to an end infringements.
The OFT has already a considerable time the powers to fine individuals for competition law infringements. In addition, individuals can be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison in the UK and company directors can be disqualified from managing a company for up to 15 years. These powers are regularly used in competition law infringement cases.