The Office of Fair Trading

The Enterprise Act of 2002 introduced dramatic changes to UK competition law and heralded the creation of the Office of Fair Trading. The functions of the OFT include the enforcement of competition and consumer protection rules. In the criminal fraud context, the OFT has a key role in the investigation of all forms of anti-competitive behaviour, particularly suspected cartel is an abuse of power.

The OFT has sweeping investigative powers to examine allegations of price-fixing, market sharing and bid rigging which can result in civil liability or criminal prosecution. To date the OFT has only prosecuted two cartel prosecutions. The Marine Hoses prosecution concerned the case and a high-profile investigation into price-fixing o long haul tickets by executives of British Airways and Virgin Airlines between 2004 to 2006. Controversy surrounds the BA –Virgin case which collapsed after the OFT conceded failings in it’s disclosure regime with particular criticism of the manner in which type A immunity was granted to staff of Virgin airlines.

According to a Government consultation paper published in 2012, the OFT is shortly to be absorbed within the Markets and Competition Authority, which is intended to prosecute most cartel cases although the SFO will also retain the power to prosecute these crimes. Whether the SFO and MCA will co-operate in future cartel investigations remains to be seen.
For the latest update on the work of the OFT visit FF, our companion site for financial crime news and analysis.