European Commission introduces new tool for anonymous whistleblowers

EU-Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is in charge of competition policy.
EU-Commissioner Margrethe Vestager is in charge of competition policy.
Photo: Reuters

(sth) – Discussions about how to treat so-called whistleblowers in certain cases often show that there are strongly divergent views about the subject.

As recently as Wednesday, a Luxembourg appeal court reduced the sentences for the whistleblowers in the 'Luxleaks' case, without however freeing the accused of all charges in line with the idea of the protection of a whistleblower status.

The European Commission on Thursday introduced a new tool to allow for people to blow the whistle anonymously, at least on secret cartels and 'other anti-competitive practices'.

These practices include agreeing on prices or procurement bids, keeping products off the market or unfairly excluding rivals and can cause immense damage to Europe's economy.

They can deny customers access to a wider choice of goods and services at reasonable prices, stifle innovation and put companies out of business.

“Powerful tool to help uncover cartels”

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "If people are concerned by business practices that they think are wrong, they can help put things right. Inside knowledge can be a powerful tool to help the Commission uncover cartels and other anti-competitive practices.

"With our new tool it is possible to provide information, while maintaining anonymity. Information can contribute to the success of our investigations quickly and more efficiently to the benefit of consumers and the EU's economy as a whole."

Until now, most cartels have been detected through the Commission's leniency programme, which allows businesses to report their own involvement in a cartel in exchange for a reduction of the fine imposed on them.

The Commission's new tool now gives an opportunity to individuals who have knowledge of the existence or functioning of a cartel or other types of antitrust violations to help end such practices.

Guaranteed anonymity

The new tool protects whistleblowers' anonymity through a specifically-designed encrypted messaging system that allows two way communications.

The service is run by a specialised external service provider that acts as an intermediary, and which relays only the content of received messages without forwarding any metadata that could be used to identify the individual providing the information.

Individuals who are willing to reveal their identity can also contact the Commission's competition department directly through a dedicated phone number and e-mail address.

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