The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a new campaign to tackle anti-competitive and cartel behaviour, such as price fixing and contract rigging, among UK businesses.
Its national awareness campaign aims to educate businesses, such as manufacturers, about which practices are illegal and urges people to come forward if they suspect a business has taken part in cartel behaviour.
According to new research by the CMA, only 57% of 1,000 surveyed companies knew it was illegal to fix prices.
Half of companies did not know or thought it was legal to discuss prices with competing bidders when quoting for new work.
Nearly 60% did not know or thought that dividing up and sharing customers with rivals was legal.
Howard Cartlidge, senior director of Cartels at the CMA, said: “Businesses that fix prices or rig contracts are breaking the law and ripping people off.
“The victims are customers and other businesses, who are getting cheated out of a fair deal.
“We know that the vast majority of businesses want to do the right thing, but pleading ignorance simply isn’t good enough. Today’s campaign makes it easy to find out the facts.
“If you know of something illegal – do the right thing and tell us about it.”
Previous campaigns have driven a 30% rise in the number of tip-offs to the CMA’s cartels hotline.
Since April 2015 it has issued over £155m in fines following investigations into anti-competitive practices.
Businesses found to have been involved in illegal cartels can be fined up to 10% of their annual turnover.
Individuals can face up to five years in prison and directors can be disqualified from holding director positions for up to 15 years.