Ofcom today issued revised guidelines on the penalties they may impose on those breaching rules policed by Ofcom. The new guidelines replace prior guidelines dating from 2003 and apply to a rag-bag of over 40 potential contraventions, although significantly not competition law.
In a departure from Ofcom’s default ‘if in doubt write a long document’ approach, the guidelines are refreshingly short:
Ofcom will consider all the circumstances of the case in the round in order to determine the appropriate and proportionate amount of any penalty. The central objective of imposing a penalty is deterrence. The amount of any penalty must be sufficient to ensure that it will act as an effective incentive to compliance, having regard to the seriousness of the infringement.
The factors taken into account in each case will vary, depending on what is relevant. Some examples of potentially relevant factors are:
- The degree of harm, whether actual or potential, caused by the contravention, including any increased cost incurred by consumers or other market participants;
- The duration of the contravention;
- Any gain (financial or otherwise) made by the regulated body in breach (or any connected body) as a result of the contravention;
- Any steps taken for remedying the consequences of the contravention;
- Whether the regulated body in breach has a history of contraventions (repeated contraventions may lead to significantly increased penalties);
- Whether in all the circumstances appropriate steps had been taken by the regulated body to prevent the contravention;
- The extent to which the contravention occurred intentionally or recklessly, including the extent to which senior management knew, or ought to have known, that a contravention was occurring or would occur;
- Whether the contravention in question continued, or timely and effective steps were taken to end it, once the regulated body became aware of it; and
- The extent to which the level of penalty is proportionate, taking into account the size and turnover of the regulated body.