On 13 July 2017 the CMA launched a free cartel screening tool for procurers. In collaboration with Spend Network, the CMA has developed a tool that uses algorithms to test tender documentation and bid prices to identify behaviour that may indicate cartel activity. Spend Network’s February 2016 report outlines the tool’s usage methodology and development. Users must provide certain data for analysis: the invitation to tender document, bid submissions from all bidders, the identity of the winning bidder and the pricing information in each bid. The algorithms enable the tool to test for suspicious signs in three key areas: (i) number and pattern of bidders, (ii) pricing patterns, and (iii) document origin and low endeavour submissions. The pass/fail threshold and weighting of each metric can be adjusted and further tests can be added to tailor the tool to specific situations and different regions and industries. Ultimately, the tool creates a suspicion score for the tender exercise, which indicates tenders that are more likely than others to be suspect. Although a high score does not prove the existence of a cartel, it can prompt procurers to re-examine the bid documentation and ask questions.

The tool is freely available as an application that can be downloaded and used within procurers’ own systems. This allows the tool to take on a life of its own and increases the scope for future tailoring and development. Contrary to a CMA-hosted tool, this approach also means that users need not share data to use the tool.