What is a cartel?
A cartel exists when businesses agree to act together instead of competing with each other. Participants can range from large, well-known corporations to small local businesses.
Cartel agreements are designed to drive up the profits of cartel members while maintaining the illusion of competition.
Cartels are illegal under Australian law because they are anti-competitive - they inflate prices, minimise choice for consumers and stifle innovation. Ultimately cartels undermine the efficient functioning of Australian markets. Cartel conduct is prohibited under the CCA.
The government agency that investigates possible cartel behaviour and takes legal action where necessary is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Why do you need to know about cartels?
When you are working in the business world, you will need to understand how the cartel laws affect your dealings with your competitors. Businesses that get involved in cartel behaviour risk being caught and facing hefty financial penalties. Businesses that suffer loss because the law has been broken can seek compensation from the businesses that engaged in illegal cartel conduct.
If you were personally involved in the cartel agreement, you may also be personally liable to pay a penalty and/or compensation. You can also be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in jail.