15 April 2008 | Steve Bagshaw
Procurement professionals are in the front line when it comes to spotting illegal cartel-style behaviour among suppliers, according to the Office for Fair Trading. And buyers are most likely to suffer as a result of cartel activity.
Suppliers offering "similar pricing or similar price rises, letters written in a similar language," can all be signs, according to James Allen, principal investigations officer.
"For buyers it is about an awareness of the fact that you are at risk from cartel activity when you are buying, and looking for signs that might suggest potential suppliers have colluded to affect process and markets," he said.
His comments come as the OFT continues its investigation into the construction sector. The probe, the largest in OFT history focuses on contracts totalling £3 billion.
And it is a global problem. "The OECD quote a figure that cartels add something like 10 per cent to prices generally, so that makes them a significant economic problem," he added.
Additional reporting by Richard Brass
See an interview with James Allen in Supply Management on 22 May.