There has been an important development in one of two UK criminal cartel cases against individuals which are currently being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). This case concerns suspected cartel conduct regarding the supply in the UK of galvanised steel tanks for water storage.

At a hearing on 26 January 2015 at Southwark Crown Court (London), Clive Dean and Nicholas Stringer both pleaded not guilty to the charge of committing the criminal cartel offence under UK law (section 188 of the UK Enterprise Act 2002). Their trial, before a jury, has now been set to start on 1 June 2015. One other individual, Peter Snee, has already pleaded not guilty. Any individual convicted for the criminal cartel offence faces jail time and/or an unlimited fine.

This will be an important and keenly watched trial, in particular since the CMA (and its predecessor, the Office of Fair Trading) has not had much success in the area of criminal cartel enforcement against individuals. To date only one case (arising out of the marine hose cartel) has been successful, while another (arising out of the British Airways/Virgin cartel) rather embarrassingly collapsed as a result of procedural problems.

The CMA is conducting a related civil investigation into whether businesses have infringed the UK Competition Act 1998 as a result of arrangements affecting galvanised steel tanks (for which they could be fined in the normal way).