OFT charges steel tanks cartel suspect

The Office of Fair Trading ("OFT") has confirmed that Peter Nigel Snee has been charged under Section 188 of the Enterprise Act 2002 for his criminal involvement in a suspected steel tanks cartel. Mr Snee was charged earlier this month and appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday (4 Feb 2014).

The charge follows an OFT investigation into suspected cartel activity in the supply in the UK of galvanised steel tanks for water storage.  Mr Snee is accused of dishonestly agreeing with others to fix prices, rig bids and divide customers between 2004 and 2012, in respect of the supply of the galvanised steel tanks.  If he is found guilty, Snee could face up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

The businesses involved in the alleged cartel are subject to a separate administrative investigation by the OFT and if found to have infringed competition law, will face fines of up to 10% of their global turnover.

This is the first OFT/SFO cartel offence prosecution to be made public since the case they pursued against a number of British Airways executives collapsed in May 2010. There is no doubt that both politically and in terms of their credibility, this is an important case for the OFT and its successor body the Competition and Markets Authority.

In order to convict Mr Snee, the prosecution will need to prove that he acted dishonestly (a requirement of the cartel offence as it stands). The need to prove dishonesty, which has been a stumbling block in previous prosecutions, will be removed when the relevant sections of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 come into force later this year.

This change will not affect Mr Snee but will certainly make it less difficult for the Competition and Markets Authority to successfully prosecute individuals for their involvement in cartels.

For further information contact Tristan Meears-White

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.