On 16 March, the European Commission (“Commission”) announced it had launched a new tool in its fight against cartels and other anti-competitive practices. The Commission unveiled a new whistleblowing tool, which would allow individuals to alert it of such practices but to retain their anonymity.
This new tool is complementary to the already existing leniency program which is one of the most successful means for detection of cartel activities by the Commission. Under the leniency program, companies can inform the Commission about a cartel in which they participated and apply for immunity or reduction of their fine. With the anonymous whistleblowing tool, the Commission is encouraging individuals to inform it of anti-competitive practices they may have knowledge of.
Under the new whistleblower tool, the Commission invites individuals to voluntarily provide information on facts, circumstances and individuals involved in an anti-competitive conduct, which are not publicly known. It also clarifies that this information can be related to either past, ongoing or planned anti-competitive conduct.
Whistleblowers can choose to reveal their identity. If not, the new tool provides the possibility to protect their anonymity, using an encrypted messaging system run by an external service provider. Individuals can provide information but they can also agree to two-way communication allowing the Commission to request clarifications or additional information.