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Fair markets

We want to compete in markets that are free, honest and open. And we want everyone to trust that we will compete fairly.

So we always behave ethically, and support and comply with all laws that promote and protect competition whether we're working on our own, or with others.

Anti-trust laws exist to stop any attempt to restrict free and fair competition, such as price-fixing. Many countries apply these laws both inside and outside their borders, so their scope is international. It can be a criminal offence to violate these laws, involving severe penalties - including prison for individuals and heavy fines for companies.

When we work with partners, or when we partner with competitors to bid for and deliver a contract together, we need to make sure what we offer and do is ethical and legal, does not disadvantage our customer, and does not misrepresent anything to them.  See the section "Working with Partners and Competitors" for more details.  And ask advice if you're not sure you or someone else is doing the right thing.

We will never risk our reputation to try to gain an unfair competitive advantage.

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What you can expect from us:

  • We will compete legally, fairly and ethically.
  • We will not enter into discussion with competitors or provide them with information about anything that could limit competition, or agree with them to fix prices, control supplies, allocate markets, boycott customers or suppliers, or enter into any other anti-competitive agreements.
  • We won't use our influence to intimidate anyone or coerce anyone into anti-competitive conduct.
  • We will never suggest or imply that our suppliers or customers must buy products or services from us.
  • Anything we say in bids or in contract negotiations to prospective customers must be accurate and truthful. All the work we do for our customers must meet our contractual obligations and be legally compliant.

We expect you to:

  • Compete ethically, fairly and legally.
  • Seek legal advice if you are uncertain about how to proceed.
  • Leave any external event if someone starts to discuss competitively sensitive information.
  • Never discuss or provide competitors with any information that could limit competition.
  • Never commit the Company to an agreement that fixes prices, controls supplies, allocates markets or boycotts customers or suppliers.
  • Report any suspicion of anti-competitive behaviour.

A competitor has only one contract left in your business area and it's up for renewal.

To secure the business and remove the competition from this market you offer a huge discount to the customer, knowing you will lose money on the contract.

Tough but fair?

1. It is tough, but sometimes that's how competition works

Wrong. Please try again.

2. We need to seek advice before doing anything like this

Right answer because:

"We want to compete in markets that are free, honest and open. And we want everyone to trust that we will compete fairly. So we always behave ethically, and support and comply with all laws that promote and protect competition whether we're working on our own, or with others."

Our reputation for competing fairly is vital to our success. So we need to take the greatest care to make sure we are not damaging that reputation or acting illegally.

We are allowed to discount, but only if we are not doing so on the basis of illegitimately received information. How did we find out?this information? That's a question we must be able to answer if there is an investigation.

And in this case there could well be an investigation as there are potential issues here with competition laws and the ethics of this approach.

For example, the practice of removing the competition and then increasing our prices is known as "Predatory Pricing" and is illegal under a number of different laws.

Even when it's not the case, the impression that we are manipulating the market, acting unfairly, or in an underhand manner, can do huge damage to us.

That's why our Code specifically says,

"Seek legal advice if you are uncertain about how to proceed."

3. Yes it's fair. And we can always increase the prices once the competitor has gone

Wrong. Please try again.

A good friend works for one of our competitors. While out socialising he reveals information about their pricing policy and target markets for the coming year.

Should you report that you know this information?

1. I'd have to report this to protect my friend and me. And I'd tell him what I'm going to do

Right answer because:

You may have inadvertently put Serco at risk because the conversation revealed commercially sensitive information. So you do need to report this discussion to your manager and record this meeting.
You haven't done anything wrong so long as the meeting is recorded and reported.

If it's not recorded, then those who may have heard the conversation, or someone who discovers that it took place, could gain the impression that you were trying to fix the market. This is illegal, and could breach anti trust laws. So you and your friend could be in real trouble, even though you've done nothing wrong.

These laws exist to stop any attempt to restrict free and fair competition, such as price-fixing. Many countries apply these laws both inside and outside their borders, so their scope is international. It can be a criminal offence to violate these laws, involving severe penalties - including prison for individuals and heavy fines for companies.

And even when not proven, just the suggestion of price fixing can seriously damage our reputation. That is why our Code says,

"We will not enter into discussion with competitors or provide them with information about anything that could limit competition, or agree with them to fix prices, control supplies, allocate markets, boycott customers or suppliers, or enter into any other anti-competitive agreements."

2. I wouldn't pass this information on. So no

Wrong. Please try again.

3. No, we need to use this information, so there should be no record of us knowing it

Wrong. Please try again.

We're partnering with another company in an important bid that we're hoping to win.

Then someone on our team is told that our partner has been fixing prices in a contract not related to ours.

What should we do?

1. Fortunately it's not our contract, so we don't need to do anything.

Wrong. Please try again.

2. We'll lose this bid if we Speak Up. So we act as if we didn't know, but from now on watch our partner like a hawk.

Wrong. Please try again.

3. We have to report this to our legal team.

Right answer because:

Our Code says this:

"When we work with partners, or when we partner with competitors to bid for and deliver a contract together, we need to make sure what we offer and do is ethical and legal, does not disadvantage our customer, and does not misrepresent anything to them."

We are now in possession of information that suggests this partner does act unethically and illegally to fix prices and disadvantage customers.

The implications are very serious for us. Even though their actions are on a different contract, their behaviour could reflect on our own, since we are partnering with them.

What's more, by doing nothing, and failing to act on this information, we might be accused later of failing both in our duty of care to our customer, and in doing what's right.

This is a very tricky situation, and it needs specialists to manage it. That's why our Code asks us to seek legal advice if we're uncertain about how to proceed, and tells us to report any suspicious or anti-competitive behaviour.

 

While preparing a quote, you happen to learn what a competitor is going to bind.

What should we do?

 

1. Unfortunately we'll have to report this, even if we have to rule ourselves out of quoting

Right answer because:

It's fine for us to compete aggressively, so long as it's fair. And it really matters that we are seen to be competing fairly. Sometimes that means acting in a way that demonstrates our integrity, but isn't necessarily to our competitive advantage. Here is such a case.

Without acting in any underhand way we have learned something that we could exploit. But it's something we shouldn't know, and shouldn't be able to exploit. So let's walk through what could happen here:

If we use this information, we improve our chances of winning this contract. But we also risk the chance of being accused of unfair practices.

If that were to happen it would severely damage our reputation, and diminish our chances of winning business in many other bids. And some very important laws regulate the markets to ensure every company operates fairly.

These are called "Anti Trust Laws" and they exist to stop any attempt to restrict free and fair competition, such as price-fixing. Their scope is international and it can be a criminal offence to violate these laws, involving severe penalties - including prison for individuals and heavy fines for companies.

What's more, even when not proven, just the suggestion of price fixing can seriously damage our reputation.

Put simply, taking advantage of information we are not entitled to have is just not worth it. It isn't fair, and it doesn't make good business sense.

So even if it means we have to forgo the opportunity of this bid, we must report what we've learnt. In the long run, it's to our benefit.

We will never risk our reputation to try to gain an unfair competitive advantage

2. Lucky us. Take advantage - knowledge is to be used

Wrong. Please try again.

3. Review our own quote and if we can still operate profitably adjust it accordingly

Wrong. Please try again.

Dilemma 1

A competitor has only one contract left in your business area and it's up for renewal.

To secure the business and remove the competition from this market you offer a huge discount to the customer, knowing you will lose money on the contract.

Tough but fair?

1. It is tough, but sometimes that's how competition works

Wrong. Please try again.

2. We need to seek advice before doing anything like this

Right answer because:

"We want to compete in markets that are free, honest and open. And we want everyone to trust that we will compete fairly. So we always behave ethically, and support and comply with all laws that promote and protect competition whether we're working on our own, or with others."

Our reputation for competing fairly is vital to our success. So we need to take the greatest care to make sure we are not damaging that reputation or acting illegally.

We are allowed to discount, but only if we are not doing so on the basis of illegitimately received information. How did we find out?this information? That's a question we must be able to answer if there is an investigation.

And in this case there could well be an investigation as there are potential issues here with competition laws and the ethics of this approach.

For example, the practice of removing the competition and then increasing our prices is known as "Predatory Pricing" and is illegal under a number of different laws.

Even when it's not the case, the impression that we are manipulating the market, acting unfairly, or in an underhand manner, can do huge damage to us.

That's why our Code specifically says,

"Seek legal advice if you are uncertain about how to proceed."

3. Yes it's fair. And we can always increase the prices once the competitor has gone

Wrong. Please try again.

Dilemma 2

A good friend works for one of our competitors. While out socialising he reveals information about their pricing policy and target markets for the coming year.

Should you report that you know this information?

1. I'd have to report this to protect my friend and me. And I'd tell him what I'm going to do

Right answer because:

You may have inadvertently put Serco at risk because the conversation revealed commercially sensitive information. So you do need to report this discussion to your manager and record this meeting.
You haven't done anything wrong so long as the meeting is recorded and reported.

If it's not recorded, then those who may have heard the conversation, or someone who discovers that it took place, could gain the impression that you were trying to fix the market. This is illegal, and could breach anti trust laws. So you and your friend could be in real trouble, even though you've done nothing wrong.

These laws exist to stop any attempt to restrict free and fair competition, such as price-fixing. Many countries apply these laws both inside and outside their borders, so their scope is international. It can be a criminal offence to violate these laws, involving severe penalties - including prison for individuals and heavy fines for companies.

And even when not proven, just the suggestion of price fixing can seriously damage our reputation. That is why our Code says,

"We will not enter into discussion with competitors or provide them with information about anything that could limit competition, or agree with them to fix prices, control supplies, allocate markets, boycott customers or suppliers, or enter into any other anti-competitive agreements."

2. I wouldn't pass this information on. So no

Wrong. Please try again.

3. No, we need to use this information, so there should be no record of us knowing it

Wrong. Please try again.

Dilemma 3

We're partnering with another company in an important bid that we're hoping to win.

Then someone on our team is told that our partner has been fixing prices in a contract not related to ours.

What should we do?

1. Fortunately it's not our contract, so we don't need to do anything.

Wrong. Please try again.

2. We'll lose this bid if we Speak Up. So we act as if we didn't know, but from now on watch our partner like a hawk.

Wrong. Please try again.

3. We have to report this to our legal team.

Right answer because:

Our Code says this:

"When we work with partners, or when we partner with competitors to bid for and deliver a contract together, we need to make sure what we offer and do is ethical and legal, does not disadvantage our customer, and does not misrepresent anything to them."

We are now in possession of information that suggests this partner does act unethically and illegally to fix prices and disadvantage customers.

The implications are very serious for us. Even though their actions are on a different contract, their behaviour could reflect on our own, since we are partnering with them.

What's more, by doing nothing, and failing to act on this information, we might be accused later of failing both in our duty of care to our customer, and in doing what's right.

This is a very tricky situation, and it needs specialists to manage it. That's why our Code asks us to seek legal advice if we're uncertain about how to proceed, and tells us to report any suspicious or anti-competitive behaviour.

 

Dilemma 4

While preparing a quote, you happen to learn what a competitor is going to bind.

What should we do?

 

1. Unfortunately we'll have to report this, even if we have to rule ourselves out of quoting

Right answer because:

It's fine for us to compete aggressively, so long as it's fair. And it really matters that we are seen to be competing fairly. Sometimes that means acting in a way that demonstrates our integrity, but isn't necessarily to our competitive advantage. Here is such a case.

Without acting in any underhand way we have learned something that we could exploit. But it's something we shouldn't know, and shouldn't be able to exploit. So let's walk through what could happen here:

If we use this information, we improve our chances of winning this contract. But we also risk the chance of being accused of unfair practices.

If that were to happen it would severely damage our reputation, and diminish our chances of winning business in many other bids. And some very important laws regulate the markets to ensure every company operates fairly.

These are called "Anti Trust Laws" and they exist to stop any attempt to restrict free and fair competition, such as price-fixing. Their scope is international and it can be a criminal offence to violate these laws, involving severe penalties - including prison for individuals and heavy fines for companies.

What's more, even when not proven, just the suggestion of price fixing can seriously damage our reputation.

Put simply, taking advantage of information we are not entitled to have is just not worth it. It isn't fair, and it doesn't make good business sense.

So even if it means we have to forgo the opportunity of this bid, we must report what we've learnt. In the long run, it's to our benefit.

We will never risk our reputation to try to gain an unfair competitive advantage

2. Lucky us. Take advantage - knowledge is to be used

Wrong. Please try again.

3. Review our own quote and if we can still operate profitably adjust it accordingly

Wrong. Please try again.