On 16 August 2012, the OFT announced that eight UK National Health Service (NHS) hospitals had given voluntary assurances to the OFT that they will no longer exchange commercially sensitive information about their prices for providing private treatments. NHS hospitals are public bodies which do not charge for NHS treatment, but they may also provide treatment to private patients which is paid for either directly by the patient or by his health insurer.

The assurances are intended to ensure that the hospitals comply with EU and UK competition law. No details are available beyond the fact that the information concerned prices, but, in particular, the exchange of information on companies’ individualised intentions concerning future conduct regarding prices (or quantities of production) is particularly likely to lead to a competition law concern and is effectively seen as a cartel.

Although no fine has been imposed and technically the OFT has found no infringement of competition law, this is another example of the risks arising out of exchange of commercially sensitive information under EU and UK competition law and the need for suitable compliance training.