CMA adopts plain-speaking stance to persuade consumers to report cartels

The Competition and Markets Authority has rolled out a digital campaign aimed at demystifying cartels and helping people to recognise market abuse and report the culprits to the authorities.

CMA campaign: Appeals to consumers' sense of justice using plain language
CMA campaign: Appeals to consumers' sense of justice using plain language

The drive marks the second phase of the CMA’s "Stop unfair cartels" campaign, which is targeting two key groups – witnesses to cartels and participants in cartels.

This latest round of activity, which follows the CMA's debut digital campaign last March, has been made by creative agency Stack, with advertising media planned by twentysix and bought by Carat. It includes a video explaining in layman’s terms what cartels are.

The approximately five-week-long campaign marks a shift in CMA comms, which have adopted a less esoteric tone since research was published last year finding that stakeholders thought the body should talk in "plain English".

Accordingly, the video uses simple animations and jargon-free language to convey information. "Cartels are a form of stealing," says the voiceover. "They rob consumers and other businesses of a fair deal. A cartel is where two or more businesses agree not to compete with one another. This can include price-fixing, market-sharing and bid-rigging."

Viewers of the video and advertising are directed to a 'Stop cartels' website that explains in more detail how cartels damage the UK economy, what consumers need to look out for and how they can act.

The site asks people to report a cartel if they have seen one in action, even if they are unsure, reassuring them that their identity will be kept a secret.

While the tone of the campaign has been designed to appeal more to people's sense of altruism and justice rather than their appetite for personal gain, the site also tells visitors that if they report a cartel, they could earn a reward.

The activity will run across social media and digital platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google AdWords and Twitter, as well as online display ads targeting business-owners, corporate decision-makers and people who are potential witnesses to cartel behaviour.

Karen Campbell White, the CMA's head of campaigns and compliance, said: "When businesses choose to break competition law, the public and other businesses lose out.

"We are committed to doing all we can to educate businesses and equip whistleblowers with the information they need to stop bad practice. The campaign takes a complex subject and makes it accessible. The animation style is friendly and open, while still conveying key information to both witnesses and perpetrators."

Last year's cartel-busting campaign, which focused on senior executives at businesses across all sectors, was built on the insights that many UK business people did not know what a cartel was and that senior execs had failed to identify cartel behaviour.

Its success clearly spurred the CMA into its latest salvo, accruing 11 million impressions on Twitter and generating 7,000 click-throughs to the CMA's landing page. But the most impressive result was that it helped boost the number of leads by 30 per cent.

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