On 10 August 2011, the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT) fined four UK supermarkets and five UK dairy processors a total of GBP49.51 million for a "hub-and-spoke" (or A-B-C) cartel infringement. There are various variants of this type of infringement. In the present case, it involved the supermarkets coordinating increases in the retail prices consumers paid for certain dairy products by the indirect exchange of pricing intentions with each other via the dairy processors.
This is yet another example of enforcement action in the UK against a hub-and-spoke cartel which, once again, involved retail markets. Retailers and their suppliers are particularly susceptible to A-B-C infringements, given in particular that the retailers often share a limited group of suppliers and have a large number of (often very target-driven) buyers. Nevertheless, the same issues can arise in other industries. From a compliance point of view, the message is that companies at risk of these types of infringement need in particular to be very careful about information flow and use of language in communications.