Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is clamping down on cartels, which it says are damaging to both the economy and consumer rights.
In its first campaign the CMA is offering whistleblowers up to £100,000 to those anonymously reporting on businesses that agree not to compete with each other to maintain high prices.
Research by the CMA found that less than a quarter of businesses are well informed on competition law.
Firms caught operating illegal cartels may be penalised up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover, individuals can face up to 5 years in prison and directors can be disqualified from holding director positions for up to 10 years, although these can be reduced or eliminated if a business or individual reports their involvement to the CMA.
Andrea Coscelli, acting chief executive, says: “Cartels are a form of stealing that cheat ordinary people as well as other businesses by undermining competition, and we are committed to tackling them wherever we find them. Cartels are carried out in secret to make you think you are getting a fair deal, even when you are being conspired against to keep prices high.
“Cartels are both harmful and illegal, and the consequences of breaking the law are extremely serious. That is why we are launching this campaign – to help people understand what cartel activity looks like and how to report it so we can take action.”