CCP Conference: What Do Public and Private Sanctions in Competition Policy Actually Achieve?

Add to Calendar: Jun. 14 - 15, 2012

A conference on anti-competitive business practices such as price-fixing and bid-rigging will take place at the University of East Anglia next week. Numerous questions as to the effect and interplay of public and private sanctions have been raised by the current shake-up of the UK public enforcement framework accompanied by a consultation on private antitrust actions. The Office of Fair Trading has uncovered high-profile cases including sales of replica football kits, airline price-fixing, and bid-rigging in the construction industry – resulting in multi-million pound fines for companies involved. The European Commission has also attempted to provide guidance for the quantification of harm in private antitrust actions. 

The CCP’s 8th annual conference brings together experts from the USA, Australia and Europe to discuss these developments from an economic, legal and political-science perspective. The two-day event will focus on how consumers, who pay over the odds as a result of such practices, can successfully claim compensation. The speakers will provide a framework for appraising at the effects and achievements of public and private sanctions in the UK and the EU. Topics include the current approach to cartel sanctions, leniency and the interplay of public and private enforcement. In addition, the conference seeks to stimulate the discussion about the on-going consultation on private antitrust enforcement in the UK.

Speakers will include John Holmes from Which? magazine and Iain Mansfield, assistant director of competition policy at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Dr Andreas Stephan, from the Centre for Competition Policy at UEA, said: “There are a number of obstacles for consumers claiming compensation. In particular, the financial loss is typically shared between a large number of consumers. But while individual losses might be small, the cumulative loss to the economy is potentially enormous.

“The problem in the UK is that we don’t allow for collective legal actions on an ‘opt-out’ basis.

“When the consumer group Which? attempted to sue for compensation over replica football kits it was unsuccessful because of the cost of identifying affected victims and getting them to sign up.

“In the US however, lawyers are able to sue on behalf of a group of consumers without each consumer needing to specifically ‘opt in’ to the legal action.

“The UK government is currently consulting on such a system, which would make it much easier to sue companies for anti-competitive practices.”

Iain Mansfield (BIS) will lead a panel discussion on the government’s consultation at the event.

The conference will be held on 14 and 15 June 2012 in the Thomas Paine Building at UEA in Norwich. For more information or to book a place, contact Leanne Denmark on 01603 591616, email l.denmark@uea.ac.uk.

For more information on the program and registration, click here.

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