Up to 10 years jail for serious cartel conduct

By: Graham Gardiner

Individuals who partake in serious cartel conduct now face jail terms of up to 10 years under a Bill passed

Individuals who partake in serious cartel conduct now face jail terms of up to 10 years under a Bill passed by the Senate last night.

Dr Craig Emerson, Minister for Small Business, Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs Minister Assisting the Finance Minister on Deregulation, says the Rudd Government has fulfilled another key election commitment with the passing of the Trade Practices Amendment (Cartel Conduct and Other Measures) Bill 2008.

"The previous Government promised to criminalise serious cartel conduct but never delivered," he says.

"The Government appreciates the unanimous support of the Senate for this important pro-competitive legislation.

I acknowledge the path-breaking work of my predecessor, Chris Bowen, in bringing this Bill before the Senate."

This Bill amends the Trade Practices Act 1974 to introduce criminal and civil sanctions specifically targeting serious cartel conduct.

Individuals and companies that fix prices or reduce choice by distorting the ordinary flow of competition now face some of the stiffest penalties in the world for this type of behaviour.

The Government has introduced a maximum jail term of 10 years for individuals to send a clear message about cartel conduct.

Anyone engaging in serious cartel conduct also faces fines of up to $220,000 for individuals and $10 million for corporations under the tough new legislation.

The Federal Government's Bill will also enable telephone interception powers to be used as an investigatory tool in relation to the criminal offences.

"Price fixing is essentially theft and consumers are the ones who suffer," Emerson says.

"This legislation demonstrates the Government’s ongoing commitment to strengthen laws promoting competition.

"Strong, lawful competition is a vital means of ensuring that consumers get the best product or service for the lowest possible price."

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