Starting from 16 March 2017 individuals can help the European Commission (“EC”) in uncovering cartels and other anti-competitive practices without disclosing their identity due to availability of external service provider and encrypted communications with the EC (“whistleblowing tool”).
A new “whistleblowing tool” has been launched by the EC to enable individuals who have knowledge of (past, on-going or planned) antitrust violations/cartels to anonymously provide information to the EC and contribute to the antitrust investigation. Normally most cartels have been detected through the leniency program under which the businesses are entitled to an immunity from or reduction in fine imposed on them if they reported their involvement in a cartel. Thus, the new “whistleblowing tool” gives an opportunity also to individuals to anonymously participate in detecting illegal anti-competitive behavior.
Anonymous provision of information is possible through a specifically designed encrypted messaging system and an external service provider, which allows two-way communications between the individual and the EC (e.g. there is an option to ask the EC to reply messages, and for the EC to seek clarifications/details, etc.). Since it is only the content of the received messages that is being relayed, without any other data, it is impossible to identify the “whistleblower” (unless he/she is willing to do so. Should this be the case, the EC should be contacted directly).
It is expected that the new tool will (i) increase the likelihood that the information provided will be sufficiently precise due to absolute anonymity of the “whistleblower”, and hence (ii) contribute to effectiveness of the leniency program in the EU and quicker detection of anticompetitive practices/cartels to the benefit of consumers and the EU’s economy as a whole. Additionally, it may influence the leniency policy in other jurisdictions, such as Turkey, Ukraine, etc. which have undertaken to harmonize their competition laws and practices with the EU rules.
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