The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently secured the first disqualification of a director of a company found to have infringed competition law. Daniel Aston, managing director of the online poster supplier Trod Ltd, has given a disqualification undertaking not to act as a director of any UK company for five years.
The CMA may, under the UK Company Directors Disqualification Act, seek the disqualification of an individual from holding company directorships or performing certain roles in relation to a company for up to 15 years, where that individual has been director of a company which has breached competition law.
The disqualification follows the CMA’s decision of 12 August 2016 that Trod breached competition law by agreeing with one of its competing online sellers that they would not undercut each other’s prices for posters and frames sold on Amazon’s UK website.
As Aston was the managing director of Trod at the relevant time, and because he personally contributed to the breach of competition law, the CMA considered that his conduct makes him unfit to be a company director for a specified period.
Under the disqualification undertaking, Aston undertakes that for a period of five years, he will not “without the leave of the court be a director of a company or act as a receiver of a company’s property; or in any way, whether directly or indirectly, be concerned or take part in the promotion, formation or management of a company; or act as an insolvency practitioner.”
This is a major step for the CMA and a very useful compliance message. It shows the CMA continuing its push to punish individuals — not just the companies that employ them — for engaging in anti-competitive behaviour. The CMA commented that “we are absolutely prepared to use this power again.”