Cartels and anti-competitive agreements

What's new

Recent roundtable discussions include: Institutional Design, IP and Standard Setting, Tenders and Auctions and the Use of Markers in Leniency Programmes. See all other best practice roundtable discussions.
Read more

Targeting the tourism, retail trade, food processing and construction materials sectors, this report identifies hundreds of competition-distorting rules and provisions.
Read more

16-17 September 2014, Uruguay: Discussions focused on Electricity markets in Latin America, Advocacy and Costa Rica's Competition Regime.
Read more

What are cartels and how do they affect consumers?

Hard core cartels (when firms agree not to compete with one another) are the most serious violations of competition law.  They injure customers by raising prices and restricting supply, thus making goods and services completely unavailable to some purchasers and unnecessarily expensive for others. 

The categories of conduct most often defined as hard core cartels are:

  • price fixing
  • output restrictions
  • market allocation
  • bid rigging (the submission of collusive tenders)
Hard core cartel prosecution is a priority policy objective for the OECD. Increasingly, prohibition against hard core cartels is now considered to be an indispensable part of a domestic competition law.

Challenges in detecting hard core cartels

Cartels are very difficult to detect.  They can involve many firms in the industry and customers are rarely in a position to detect the existence of a cartel.  Antitrust enforcers should be helped in their ability to detect cartels by various means and instruments, the most effective being leniency programmes.  These programmes provide immunity or reduction in sanctions for cartel members that co-operate (or ‘whistleblow’) with competition enforcers.  Leniency programmes have been adopted by most OECD countries and have been instrumental in increasing the success rate of the detection of cartels.

The best outcomes are secured by deterring firms from forming cartels in the first place.  Strong sanctions are therefore a fundamental component of an effective antitrust enforcement policy against hard core cartels.  An important supplement to fines against organisations for cartel conduct is sanctions against individuals for their participation in the conspiracy. These sanctions can take the form of substantial administrative fines or, in some countries, the criminal sanction of imprisonment.  The prospect of incarceration can be a powerful deterrent for businesspeople considering entering into a cartel agreement.

But cartels are not always harmful...

Some horizontal agreements between companies can fall short of a hard core cartel, and in certain cases may have beneficial effects.  For example, agreements between competitors related to research & development, production and marketing can result in reduced costs for companies, or improved products, the benefits of which are passed on to consumers. The challenge for competition authorities is how to assess these agreements, balancing the pro-competitive effects against any anti-competitive effects which may distort the market.

For further information related to the OECD work on cartels and anti-competitive agreements, please contact us at



Documents and links

Guidelines for Fighting
Bid Rigging in Public Procurement

‌Designing public procurement to fight collusive tenders


‌ ‌‌ 


Bid rigging involves groups of firms conspiring to raise prices or lower the quality of the goods or services offered in public tenders. Although illegal, this anti-competitive practice continues to cost governments and taxpayers billions of dollars every year across OECD countries.

The OECD Guidelines for Fighting Bid Rigging in Public Procurement were developed to help governments design the procurement process so as to reduce risks of bid rigging and to detect conspirancies during the process.

Countries like Mexico and Colombia have already partnered with the OECD to improve procurement practices and step up their fight against bid rigging. 

>> Read more about the Mexico-OECD partnership and related reports.

>> See the 2014 report on Fighting Bid Rigging in Public Procurement in Colombia.


More on the OECD project on fighting bid rigging can be found at


 Permanent URL:

» Competition Home Page

Topics Key materials, Tools & Guidance Global Relations
Abuse of dominance & monopolisation International co-operation

Best practice roundtables

Calendar of activities

Competition assessment toolkit

Country reports & peer reviews

Fighting bid rigging in public procurement 


Reports by the Competition Committee

Reports by competition agencies

Work in progress

About global relations

Hungary centre

Korea centre

Global Forum on Competition

Latin American Competition Forum 

Cartels & anti-competitive agreements Liberalisation & intervention in regulated sectors
Enforcement practices Mergers
Evaluation of competition interventions     Pro-competitive policy reforms

Countries list

  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Andorra
  • Angola
  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Aruba
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahamas
  • Bahrain
  • Guernsey
  • Jersey
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bermuda
  • Bhutan
  • Venezuela
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cabo Verde
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Canada
  • Cayman Islands
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • Chinese Taipei^Taipei
  • Colombia
  • Comoros
  • Cook Islands
  • Costa Rica
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Denmark
  • Djibouti
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • El Salvador
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Estonia
  • Ethiopia
  • European Union
  • Faeroe Islands
  • Micronesia
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
  • France
  • French Guiana
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Gibraltar
  • Greece
  • Greenland
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Hong Kong (China)
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Iran
  • Isle of Man
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Korea
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Lao People's Democratic Republic
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macau (China)
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Mali
  • Malta
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Mayotte
  • Mexico
  • Monaco
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Montserrat
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Namibia
  • Nauru
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Niue
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palau
  • Palestinian Authority
  • Panama
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Paraguay
  • China (People’s Republic of)
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Bolivia
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Qatar
  • Moldova
  • Congo
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Rwanda
  • Saint Helena
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Samoa
  • San Marino
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Serbia and Montenegro (pre-June 2006)
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Slovak Republic
  • Slovenia
  • Solomon Islands
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Tajikistan
  • Thailand
  • Timor-Leste
  • Togo
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Tuvalu
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • Tanzania
  • United States
  • United States Virgin Islands
  • Uruguay
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vanuatu
  • Viet Nam
  • Wallis and Futuna
  • Western Sahara
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Curaçao
  • Bonaire
  • Saba
  • Topics list