13 June 2023
Leniency programmes can be a powerful tool to detect cartels and support cartel enforcement, facilitating the prosecution of anticompetitive conducts by authorities. Their success depends not only on intrinsic characteristics of the programme itself (transparency, predictability, certainty of conditions for immunity) but also outside factors such as agencies’ enforcement record in its different aspects, including strong cartel detection and severe sanctions. To ensure continued effectiveness of leniency programmes, recent regulatory interventions have considered their strong interdependency and often complementarity with other detection tools (cartel screening, whistleblowing).
However, several data sources, including the OECD Competition Trends 2022, show a decrease in the number of leniency applications over the last decade which could constitute a serious challenge for competition authorities. Several jurisdictions are discussing or have already introduced legal reforms to tackle the perceived causes of the decline in leniency applications.
In June 2023, the OECD held a roundtable on the future of leniency programmes. The roundtable provided the opportunity to examine recent trends on leniency applications as well as different approaches and recent interventions to ensure continuous effectiveness of leniency programmes.
Participating delegations highlighted, in particular, the importance of investing in complementary instruments, such as whistleblowing programmes, or proactive detection tools, such as cartel screens. Furthermore, customer education and co-operation with other national regulators can be an essential source for cartel detection.