An empirical evaluation of the normative justifications for cartel criminalisation

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A growing number of jurisdictions treat ‘hardcore’ cartel conduct as crime, in the belief that the threat of incarceration is necessary for deterrence. The significant economic harm caused by cartels is generally undisputed, but there is disagreement over whether cartel conduct is morally offensive enough to justify criminalisation. Critics argue it is another example of ‘over-criminalisation’, seeking to regulate an activity that is morally ambiguous. Those in favour have sought to formulate normative justifications for why cartel conduct should be crime. Many of these rely on the assumption that members of society expect markets to be competitive and believe cartels are undesirable. This paper makes a significant contribution by testing this question empirically. Public surveys from the UK, Germany, Italy and the US are used to critically analyse the extent to which normative justifications for cartel conduct have empirical backing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)621–646
Number of pages26
JournalLegal Studies
Issue number4
Early online date21 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Competition Law
  • Cartels
  • Criminalisation

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