ACCC takes to the big screen to fight cartel conduct
On 30 August 2012, the ACCC released “The Marker” – a short film giving a dramatic representation of the devastating effects that participation in a cartel can have on the businesses and individuals involved (see press release here). The title of the film refers to the “immunity marker” which can serve to “reserve” a cartel participant’s position in the queue for immunity. Given that immunity is only given to the first eligible applicant, the order in which applicants approach the ACCC is critical (for more details, refer to the ACCC’s Immunity Policy for Cartel Conduct). Whilst we won’t summarise the full plot here, you can access the film via the ACCC website.
The film forms part of an integrated educative campaign by the regulator to raise awareness about cartel conduct within the business community. As ACCC Chairman Rod Sims commented:
“The ACCC’s approach to stamping out cartels is to partner education with enforcement. We have stepped up proactive intelligence gathering and data assessment and have identified industries and sectors to monitor … Education is the next step. The Marker shows how cartel activity can ruin relationships, careers, reputations and long term financial security, and may ultimately land guilty parties in jail.”
Copies of the film will be sent to CEOs at 300 of Australia’s largest companies, who are being encouraged to use the film as an educational tool for employees at all levels of the business.
The release of the film was accompanied by a video news release which featured Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Associate Professor Caron Beaton-Wells from the University of Melbourne. Associate Professor Beaton-Wells led a team of researchers which carried out a major survey into public awareness of and support for the approach to anti-cartel law enforcement in Australia (for more details, see the Cartel Project website). The survey revealed some substantial gaps in business knowledge about cartel laws, with only 42% of business people surveyed being aware of the criminal cartel sanctions applicable to conduct such as price fixing.
This is not the first time that competition authorities have branched out into other less traditional forms of media to educate the business community (and the broader) public about cartel enforcement initiatives. The International Competition Network has compiled a list of unique resources, which include a trailer and “comic book” prepared by the Competition Commission of Singapore.