A Guide to Doing Business in Scotland Competition Law (Antitrust) in Scotland

Scotland has a well-developed system of competition law, derived primarily from previous membership of the European Union and post the UK’s exit from the European Union, principally under the Competition Act 1998.

 

The system, which is enforced by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), addresses two main areas of concern:

  • The control of anti-competitive agreements between competitors (Chapter I prohibition of the Competition Act 1998)
  • The prohibition of the abuse of a dominant position the (Chapter II prohibition of the Competition Act 1998)

Competition Act 1998

Chapter I of the Competition Act 1998 (the Competition Act) prohibits any agreement or concerted practice which has the object or effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition unless an exemption from the prohibition applies. Companies and individuals found to have breached the Chapter I prohibition are liable to fines of up to a maximum level of 10% of worldwide turnover for companies.

Additionally, unlike many systems of control of anti-competitive behaviour, the UK system envisages the possibility of criminal penalties for those individuals within an undertaking who participated in price-fixing, bid-rigging, market sharing or limitation of output or supply and these individuals may be subject to the imposition of a prison sentence of up to five years’ duration, unlimited fines, or both. Individuals in an offending undertaking may also be disqualified from acting as a director for up to 15 years.

Prosecutions in Scotland

In Scotland, the Lord Advocate is responsible for all prosecutions and exercises the same powers as the (English) Serious Fraud Office through the National Casework Division (NCD) of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). The CMA and COPFS cooperate to investigate and prosecute criminal cartel cases in Scotland.

There is a programme of the CMA offering leniency from both penalties and criminal liability for undertakings which whistle blow on illegal activity in which they have participated, subject to certain rules.

Penalties and damages

The penalties regime for a breach of the Chapter II Prohibition are the same as for Chapter I, save that there are no criminal penalties. Both the Chapter I and Chapter II prohibition can be enforced by the CMA and before the Scottish Courts.

Finally, parties who have suffered as a result of a breach of competition law are able to bring an action for damages before the Court of Session within the limitation period.

Communications with lawyers, including in-house lawyers and foreign lawyers, will, in general, benefit from legal privilege in relation to competition law proceedings in Scotland.

Legislation on Merger Control exists at national level with a voluntary notification regime dependent on the nature of the businesses, their turnover and market share.

Our Awards & Accreditations

  • Shortlisted for Firm of the Year at the Scottish Legal Awards 2022.

  • In 2016, we became one of the first law firms in Scotland to become Living Wage accredited employers.

  • Winners of Corporate & Commercial Team of the Year and Family Law Team of the Year at the Scottish Legal Awards 2020.

  • Our Real Estate team won the Property Team of the Year Award at the British Legal Awards in 2018.

  • Winner of SME of the Year at the Scottish SME Awards 2017, hosted by Scottish Business Insider.

  • Highly Commended for Commercial Team of the Year at the British Legal Awards 2016.

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  • Business continuity is a critical element of the Business Management System at MacRoberts and we hold full accreditation with the ISO 22301:2019.

  • MacRoberts is a member of IP Inclusive, a network of intellectual property professionals working to make our community more equal, diverse and inclusive.

  • We are active members of the PRIME Programme – an organisation that focuses on ensuring a career in law is open to talent from all economic and social backgrounds.

  • MacRoberts supports the Scottish Business Pledge, a values-led partnership between Government and business that is based on boosting productivity and competitiveness through fairness, equality and sustainable employment.

  • We are supporters of the Partnership for Change, a network of organisations and individuals who share a common ambition to improve diversity on boards and in senior leadership.

  • MacRoberts is a Disability Confident employer, and are committed to disability equality across our firm.

  • MacRoberts fully supports flexible working practices and supports family-friendly working practices.

  • MacRoberts is a member of The Glass Network, Scotland's organisation for LGBT+ allied legal professionals.
  • In 2022, MacRoberts received a Bronze Award in Stonewall's Workplace Equality Index for our commitment to LGBTQI+ inclusivity in the workplace.

  • MacRoberts is a longstanding member of Scotland Food & Drink, the leading trade association for Scotland's food and drink industry.

  • MacRoberts is an Associate Member of SELECT, Scotland's largest construction trade association.