Biggest Competition Law Fines of 2024

Posted by

Emmeline de Chazal

on 01 May 2024

It has been a quiet year on the competition fines front; however, the penalties issued have hit the millions. We examine some of the highest-profile competition law fines in 2024 so far.

Competition Law Fines 2024

There are a number of ongoing investigations being conducted by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The main enquiry involves suspected anti-competitive conduct by housebuilders in Great Britain. While this case and others are investigated, we unpack the fines already issued.

If you're interested in earlier penalties, see Competition Law fines 2020, the highest Competition fines of 2021, the biggest Competition Law fines of 2022, and most recently, the largest fines of 2023.

Biggest competition law fines in 2024

  1. Keltbray - £20m - Cover bidding (original fine restored)
  2. Swisscom - $19.7m - Anti-trust

Anti-competitive behaviour has resulted in significant fine amounts issued. However, this has not been without protest. Both companies fined have appealed the decisions made by regulatory authorities, albeit unsuccessfully.

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Biggest competition law fines of 2024 in detail

1. Keltbray - £20m fine (original fine restored)

Keltbray, a demolition firm, contests the £20 million fine imposed by the CMA for cover bidding, claiming it was arbitrarily set. The fine, initially £20 million but reduced to £16 million through a settlement, was the largest among 10 firms fined by the competition regulator for colluding on tender prices from 2013 to 2018.

The CMA has decided to reinstate the £20 million fine after Keltbray initiated the appeal process. The demolition firm has also objected to this. Despite admitting involvement, Keltbray asserts that the penalty is disproportionate and inaccurately calculated.

They argue that the CMA should have only considered turnover from their largest projects when determining the fine. The CMA defends its actions, stating that Keltbray failed to recognise industry standards and the need for deterrence.

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2. Swisscom - $19.7m fine

The Swiss Federal Competition Commission (COMCO) fined Swisscom CHF 18 million ($19.7 million) over an antitrust dispute related to its fibre-optic cable network. COMCO objected to Swisscom's use of single-mode cables, which it claimed violated anti-cartel laws and hindered fair competition.

The commission mandated the conversion of these cables to multi-modal ones by December 2025 or face shutdown. According to COMCO, using multi-modal cables is essential for fair competition and delivering higher internet speeds to customers.

Swisscom's decision to opt for cheaper construction methods, despite higher costs involved in direct lines to households, incurred additional expenses estimated between CHF 600 million and CHF 800 million. Swisscom contested these figures but continued building with single-mode cables despite warnings from COMCO.

Swisscom's appeal against interim antitrust measures ordered by COMCO was unsuccessful. They argued that changing construction methods caused delays in network expansion, resulting in fewer connections built than planned. However, COMCO deemed the disadvantages to competition, consumers, and business customers outweighed Swisscom's concerns over additional costs and delays.

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What can we learn from these fines?

  • It is essential to have robust internal controls and compliance mechanisms in place to prevent antitrust violations.
  • Implement comprehensive training programmes to educate employees about competition law compliance.
  • Ensure swift, corrective actions and remediation measures in response to identified violations.
  • Develop a strong compliance culture with an emphasis on ethical conduct and integrity.
  • Regularly review and update policies and procedures to align with evolving legal requirements.
  • Establish clear reporting channels for employees to raise concerns or seek guidance on competition law compliance issues.

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