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Police crack down on backroom deals

PUBLISHED: 07:45 13 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:19 03 March 2010

A CRACKDOWN on dodgy backroom business deals in Suffolk is taking place.

Suffolk County Council has been chosen by the Government's Office of Fair Trading to carry out a pilot project - the first in the country - looking at price fixing cartels and other underhand practices.

A CRACKDOWN on dodgy backroom business deals in Suffolk is taking place.

Suffolk County Council has been chosen by the Government's Office of Fair Trading to carry out a pilot project – the first in the country – looking at price fixing cartels and other underhand practices.

Peter Monk, member of Suffolk County Council's executive committee, said: "A cartel is an agreement between businesses not to compete with each other. They are notoriously difficult to pin down, because they often rely on gentlemen's agreements, with nothing written down.

"The result is always the same however, we all end up paying more for products and services, there is less choice for all of us and legitimate businesses suffer.

"This pilot project, which will hopefully ensure a level playing field for traders by putting a stop to cartel activity, is therefore good news for both businesses and consumers."

The project will run for six months during which time any breaches of the 1998 Competition Act found locally will be fast-tracked for investigation. Suffolk businesses will also be able to report suspected cartel activity in confidence.

John Vickers, Director General at the Office of Fair Trading, said: "Cartels now face financial penalties, as recent OFT action has underlined. The Suffolk pilot scheme will advance co-operation between the OFT and local authorities in uprooting cartels."

Four county council departments – trading standards, economic development, procurement and commissioning and environment and transport – will be working on the project.

As well as being particularly vigilant for signs of cartel activity, the council will be advising local businesses about the Competition Act. Any business concerned its actions could be infringing the act, or which suspects it may be the victim of a cartel, is urged to contact trading standards on 01473 584368.

The OFT operates a leniency programme which can provide immunity from financial penalties to the first member of a cartel to come forward. For more information on cartels visit the OFT website at: www.oft.gov.uk

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