“Cartel conduct is hard to detect because it is often conducted in secret. In our work we therefore rely on information from those with knowledge of cartels. However, we recognise there are situations where someone may be reluctant to come forward for fear of negative consequences or reprisals,” General Manager of Competition and Consumer Antonia Horrocks said.

“This tool gives people in these situations a safe and secure way to report the behaviour and communicate with us while remaining anonymous.”

The tool is being delivered by WhistleB, which is a global whistleblowing service provider. It is designed to ensure the highest possible data security and privacy settings and encrypts any data and information provided. It is also regularly tested by external security experts.

Separately the Commission has a leniency policy for cartel participants. The first participant to contact the Commission may receive conditional immunity.

The Commission will not accept leniency applications from cartel participants via the anonymous whistleblower tool.

Learn more about the anonymous whistleblowing tool

Cartels – easier to fall into than you think

Cartels have been the subject of recent Commission advocacy work, with presentations to industry groups in different sectors.

A key theme is that it’s easier than you think to stumble into a cartel. Conference participants are shown in a series of scenarios:

  • Real estate agents are having a chat over coffee. They agree, “You take south of Main St, I’ll take north.”
  • Tradies are chatting in the pub about an upcoming tender. One mentions the price he is putting in, and laughingly suggests someone put in a higher bid. Another says, “Don’t worry mate, I’m not bidding on that one.”
  • Business people in a darkened room are agreeing that all their companies won’t absorb a new external cost. Instead they’ll all put a surcharge on the price of the services they supply. They‘ve got code words for the surcharge and their meetings are kept secret.

“We ask the audience if they think each scenario is a cartel, and it’s striking to see how few say yes, even of the shady-looking business people in a shady room. In fact all the scenarios we present could be illegal cartel conduct. It seems to come as quite a shock to some!” said Commission Principal Investigator Barrie Sutton.

The Commission has a number of quick guides and animations to help businesses understand competition law.