There has been an important development in one of the two criminal cartel cases against individuals currently being run in the UK by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
At a hearing on 17 June 2014, Southwark Crown Court (London) permitted reporting of the fact that Peter Nigel Snee had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to the charge that he had committed the criminal cartel offence (section 188 of the UK Enterprise Act 2002). If convicted, he faces jail time and/or an unlimited fine.
This follows confirmation by the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT, now the CMA) that on 27 January 2014 it had charged an individual under section 188 after an investigation into suspected cartel conduct regarding the supply in the UK of galvanised steel tanks for water storage.
The CMA is conducting a related civil investigation into whether businesses have infringed the UK Competition Act 1998 (for which they could be fined in the normal way).
To date, the OFT/CMA has not had much success in the area of criminal cartel enforcement against individuals. Only one case (arising out of the marine hose cartel, where guilty pleas were also entered, but this was related to a U.S. investigation) has been successful, while another (arising out of the British Airways/Virgin cartel) rather embarrassingly collapsed as a result of procedural problems. This case therefore will improve the CMA’s enforcement record and should bolster the CMA, but the UK still awaits its first jury trial for the criminal cartel offence.