The best results are achieved by discouraging companies from forming cartels in the first place. Strict sanctions are therefore a fundamental element of an effective antitrust enforcement policy against hardcore cartels. An important addition to the fines against organizations for cartel behavior are sanctions against individuals for their involvement in the conspiracy. Such sanctions may take the form of substantial fines or, in some countries, a criminal sanction of imprisonment. The prospect of imprisonment can be a powerful deterrent for businessmen considering entering into an antitrust deal. Since 2012, the OECD has launched a database of around 200 references to hardcore international cartels from around 50 jurisdictions. Other agreements may be exempted under a `block exemption`, i.e. a block exemption which automatically exempts certain agreements falling within its scope. Different block exemptions may apply depending on the nature of the agreement or market sector concerned.

For example, there are block exemptions for vertical agreements, technology transfer agreements and research and development agreements. Some horizontal agreements between companies may lag behind a hardcore agreement and have positive effects in some cases. For example, agreements between competitors in terms of research and development, production and marketing can lead to lower costs for businesses or improved products whose benefits are passed on to consumers. The challenge for competition authorities is to assess these agreements and weigh the pro-competitive effects against the anti-competitive effects that could distort the market. Outright cartels (when companies agree not to compete with each other) are the most serious violations of competition law. They hurt customers by raising prices and restricting supply, making goods and services completely unavailable to some buyers and unnecessarily expensive for others. Antitrust rules apply to businesses of all sizes. Article 102 requires a dominant position in a substantial part of the Union, but there is no requirement in Chapter II that a dominant position must be exercised in a substantial part of the United Kingdom, which means that, at least in theory, a dominant position could be presumed to exist in a relatively small geographical area of the United Kingdom. Companies involved in anti-competitive behaviour may find their agreements unenforceable and risk being fined up to 10% of the group`s global turnover and exposed to possible actions for damages. Each sets out certain conditions that must be met in order for the agreement to be exempted.

Those conditions may include, for example, conditions relating to the market shares of the parties and the types of restrictions contained in the agreement. A number of EU block exemptions have been incorporated into UK national law with some minor changes and will continue to apply under UK competition law after Brexit. Cartel conduct between competitors is the most serious form of anti-competitive conduct under Chapter I or Article 101 and is punishable by the highest penalty. A “hard-core” cartel is a cartel that involves setting prices, sharing the market, fixing offers, or restricting the supply or production of goods or services. Persons prosecuted for a cartel offence in the United Kingdom may be punished by up to five years` imprisonment and/or unlimited fines. Drug trafficking organizations, especially in South America, are often referred to as “drug cartels.” These organizations meet the technical definition of agreements. These are loosely related groups that set rules between themselves to control the price and supply of a good, namely illegal drugs. Cartels have a negative impact on consumers, as their existence leads to higher prices and limited supply. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has made the detection and prosecution of cartels one of its priority policy objectives. In doing so, it identified four main categories that define the behaviour of cartels: prices, production restrictions, market sharing and bid-setting (submission of collusive tenders). .