European Union: European Commission Launches Competition Law Anonymous Whistleblower Tool

In Short

The Situation: The European Commission has launched a new tool that will allow individuals to anonymously report anticompetitive conduct for the first time.

The Impact: The Commission's new access to anonymous inside information could increase the risk of exposure for companies engaging in anticompetitive conduct in the European Union and destabilize cartels.

The European Commission has introduced a new tool to encourage individuals to disclose anticompetitive conduct on an anonymous basis. Individuals are invited to supply inside knowledge to help the Commission uncover cartels and other anticompetitive practices. Previously, the Commission was not permitted to pursue tip-offs from individuals who declined to reveal their identity. The goal of this initiative is to enhance detection and prosecution and to further deter companies from engaging in anticompetitive conduct.

What Innovation

The Commission's new tool is innovative in that it is designed to guarantee full anonymity. Accessible on the Commission's competition website (Anonymous Whistleblower Tool), it consists of a specially designed encrypted messaging system run by an external service provider. The service provider acts as an intermediary between the whistleblower and the Commission and relays only the content of the received messages, without forwarding any metadata that could identify the individual (e.g., by IP address). The messaging service also allows for two-way communication, where the individual agrees. This functionality enables the Commission to request further details and clarifications where necessary and increases the likelihood that the information obtained is sufficiently precise and reliable to enable a follow-up investigation. The tool enables individuals to request that the Commission reply to their messages. Individuals willing to reveal their identity can, of course, still always contact the Commission directly via its dedicated whistleblower phone number and email address.

Why Such Initiative

The initiative takes place in the context of falling numbers of leniency applications. The Commission is highly dependent on its leniency program, which has helped to uncover two-thirds of all detected cartels. However, the increasing threat of follow-on damages actions is seen as discouraging companies from blowing the whistle. The new tool will provide new incentives for companies to do so, as it will undoubtedly increase the threat of employees taking matters into their own hands. Under the leniency program, a company obtains immunity from fines only where the Commission did not yet possess sufficient valuable information on the concerned practice. Therefore, companies will be under pressure to act before their own employees do so. For the same reason, the new tool could also help to address criticisms that the leniency program has predominantly acted to uncover past practices, rather than active cartels.

It is important to note that the new anonymous whistleblower tool does not target only cartel infringements. Any information on any anticompetitive conduct can be submitted. Thus, vertical restrictions in distribution chains or even abuses of dominance could be reported.

Anticipated Limits of Tool

Some features may limit the effectiveness of the new tool. Notably, it is missing the strong incentive of financially rewarding reporting individuals. Ethical considerations to "do the right thing" will be countered by negative perceptions of "snitching." Individuals will also be considering their loyalty to the company and job security. Indeed, subjecting a company to investigation is likely to negatively affect the company's financial health. The risk of being revealed as the whistleblower also does not entirely disappear (as most often, very few employees are aware of the illegal conduct).

In practice, the new initiative is likely to appeal most only to a limited number of disgruntled employees. In addition, the tool can function only if employees are aware of its existence and, more generally, aware of competition law principles and wrongdoings by their companies. Furthermore, the initiative could potentially work as a disincentive for companies to cooperate with the Commission, since companies turned in by an employee consequently have diminished chances of obtaining immunity under the leniency program. Also, under the tool's current version, the amount of information that can be supplied is limited, as it appears that no documents can be uploaded. Lastly, the tool could potentially work to the detriment of companies' internal reporting systems, since employees are likely to favor the former over the latter, as the Commission's tool offers the guarantee of anonymity.

Member State Initiatives

Similar anonymous whistleblower tools are already used by some Member State competition authorities. The Danish competition authority uses the same software system as the Commission. The authority recently communicated that about 10 percent of anonymous submissions have resulted in follow-up investigations, with some even triggering dawn raids.

A similar tool has been available in Germany since 2012. In addition to the possibility of contacting the German Federal Cartel Office ("FCO") via email or telephone, the FCO has introduced an online system that guarantees complete anonymity and non-traceability. The system allows the FCO and the whistleblower to communicate via a secure personal email box, such that the whistleblower can be contacted and can provide further information or details. The FCO recently communicated that it has received more than 1,400 anonymous tips since 2012. The FCO takes these tips seriously. The anonymous tool resulted in the FCO imposing a €75 million fine in 2015 on car parts manufacturers in the automotive industry, following an investigation triggered by an anonymous individual tip. It is expected that further investigations based on the anonymous reporting tool will follow.

In other Member States, whistleblowers' identities are also safeguarded, but without encrypted tools to guarantee full anonymity. In the United Kingdom, just a few days after the introduction of the Commission's new tool, the Competition and Markets Authority ("CMA") launched the first-ever advertising campaign to promote individual whistleblowing via a cartel hotline number and email address. Under this newly revised scheme, the CMA now offers a reward of up to £100,000, as well as anonymity for informants reporting a cartel. Specially trained officers (mostly with law enforcement backgrounds) will deal with whistleblowers to protect their identity from disclosure. However, the maximum £100,000 reward will be granted only in "exceptional circumstances." The amount of the reward will depend on the value of the information, the amount of harm to the economy and consumers, and the effort invested and risk taken in order to provide the information to the CMA.

In addition, individuals who have been directly involved in the cartel ordinarily will not be eligible for the financial reward; nonetheless, the guidance states that where a person's role in the cartel was relatively peripheral, the CMA may consider a reward in addition to immunity from sanctions under the leniency policy.

In Poland, the competition authority also opened a dedicated hotline and email address in early April 2017, whereby individuals can report any competition-restricting practice on an anonymous basis.


The introduction of the Commission's anonymous whistleblower tool will give employees more confidence in reporting anticompetitive conduct at their companies. However, given the lack of strong (financial) incentives for individuals to blow the whistle, it is uncertain whether the initiative will trigger an influx of individual reporting. Nevertheless, whenever an employee would choose to report to the Commission, the chances are high that the insider information will be very valuable for EU antitrust enforcement. The tool's existence may further increase cartel instability. Companies will be forced to take into consideration this new instrument in the Commission's arsenal, which creates greater exposure when engaging in anticompetitive conduct that may affect the European Union.

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Anonymous whistleblower tools for reporting competition violations are increasingly common in EU Member States.
  2. The Commission's offer of anonymity could incentivize employees to report anticompetitive behavior directly to the EU instead of using companies' internal reporting systems.
  3. Companies that have engaged in anticompetitive conduct and are now considering leniency applications will need to evaluate the increased threat of employees using the new tool to self-report before the companies have had the opportunity to disclose.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Charlotte Breuvart
Matt Evans
Cecelia Kye
Marguerite Lavedan
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions