Securing the Legitimacy of Individual Sanctions in UK Competition Law

33 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2016 Last revised: 18 Dec 2016

Date Written: December 6, 2016


Traditional deterrence theory relies on a combination of probability and severity of punishment to impose a perception of sufficiently high costs to deter wrongdoing. Yet when a very high severity of punishment counters a low probability, disproportionate outcomes give rise to societal concerns about procedural fairness and justice, such that the law loses legitimacy. Any loss of legitimacy undermines would-be offenders’ normative commitment to, and voluntary compliance with, the law. The UK has encountered significant obstacles in efforts to enhance the deterrence of competition law. The Enterprise Act 2002 and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 introduced individual sanctions, consisting of a criminal cartel offence and director disqualification orders, to deter anti-competitive behaviour. This article argues that poor drafting and prosecutorial failure are responsible for the failure to earn and secure the legitimacy of the cartel offence. Yet the greatest regulatory failure is not making fuller use of the disqualification powers, which have greater legitimacy. By following the approach suggested in this article the deterrent value and legitimacy of UK competition law would increase, and we would be closer to achieving the goals of the individual sanctions when they were introduced over 13 years ago.

Keywords: competition law, legitimacy, deterrence, cartels, criminalisation, director disqualification

JEL Classification: K21, K42, L40

Suggested Citation

Galloway, Jonathan, Securing the Legitimacy of Individual Sanctions in UK Competition Law (December 6, 2016). World Competition: Law and Economics Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Jonathan Galloway (Contact Author)

Newcastle Law School ( email )

Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU
United Kingdom

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