How to bust a cartel.

I don’t have the technical training to give a lesson on how to raid a meth lab. Although, in this blog post, I will describe how you can report and claim compensation for an anticompetitive practice. 

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There are a lot of markets that are dominated by few players. Apple and Microsoft, Visa and Mastercard, Coke and Pepsi. When that’s the case, it’s really easy for such companies to coordinate their actions and avoid competing to make profits on the backs of consumers. Of course, going after such giants is not an easy – or cheap – task. That’s the reason why antitrust is heavily enforced by competition authorities. The best way to deal with a competition concern is to contact a competition authority to invite them to investigate the issue. If the authority finds a violation of competition laws, then consumers that have been affected by it have the right to claim compensation in their local courts.

 

Finding the right competition authority

Vestager

Commissioner Vestager (Image: Ted.com)

So, let’s say (hypothetically) that you think that two cheese brands that produce the delicious halloumi cheese, agreed among themselves to sell it at the inflated price of €12 per piece. If the halloumi cartel is something that can affect the markets of many EU countries, it’d be best to contact the EU competition watchdog to investigate it. The European competition enforcer is the European Commission, lead by the Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager. If the halloumi cartel is most likely to affect the consumers of just one EU country, you would have to contact your local competition authority to investigate the claim. Thankfully, the European Commission has a useful website with links that direct to the websites of the EU national competition authorities.

Commission

So you would have to look at whether the companies that you’re going after are just small, local companies that sell in your country or whether they are so big that they need to be taken down by the Commission. Obviously there are no rules of thumb here, but if you’re thinking of going after Google, do email Vestager! After deciding which authority will investigate your concern, the process is not at all difficult for you. All you need to do is to contact the authority and to give them as much information as possible to help them with the investigation. You don’t even need to be an affected consumer to do it. So, you can contact them about your suspicion without having bought any halloumi. The contact email for the European commission is this (for national competition authorities, their contact information is available on their website). 

Claiming Compensation

CourtIf you have been personally affected by an antitrust violation, you have a right to compensation for not only your actual loss but for any potential loss of profit, plus interest. The good news is that as soon as the Commission or a National Competition Authority establishes that there has been a violation of antitrust law, you don’t need to make your case against the companies again. That means that all you need to do to claim compensation from the halloumi companies is to prove that you bought a halloumi when the prices were fixed by them.

So here you go. With just one email, you busted the notorious halloumi cartel!

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See more information about how to contact a competition authority.

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