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Subpart 3.3—Reports of Suspected Antitrust Violations

3.301  General.

(a) Practices that eliminate competition or restrain trade usually lead to excessive prices and may warrant criminal, civil, or administrative action against the participants. Examples of anticompetitive practices are collusive bidding, follow-the-leader pricing, rotated low bids, collusive price estimating systems, and sharing of the business.

(b) Contracting personnel are an important potential source of investigative leads for antitrust enforcement and should therefore be sensitive to indications of unlawful behavior by offerors and contractors. Agency personnel shall report, in accordance with agency regulations, evidence of suspected antitrust violations in acquisitions for possible referral to—

(1) The Attorney General under 3.303; and

(2) The agency office responsible for contractor debarment and suspension under Subpart 9.4.

3.302  Definitions.

As used in this subpart—

“Identical bids” means bids for the same line item that are determined to be identical as to unit price or total line item amount, with or without the application of evaluation factors (e.g., discount or transportation cost).

“Line item” means an item of supply or service, specified in a solicitation, that the offeror must separately price.

3.303  Reporting suspected antitrust violations.

(a) Agencies are required by 41 U.S.C. 253b(i) and 10 U.S.C. 2305(b)(9) to report to the Attorney General any bids or proposals that evidence a violation of the antitrust laws. These reports are in addition to those required by Subpart 9.4.

(b) The antitrust laws are intended to ensure that markets operate competitively. Any agreement or mutual understanding among competing firms that restrains the natural operation of market forces is suspect. Paragraph (c) of this section identifies behavior patterns that are often associated with antitrust violations. Activities meeting the descriptions in paragraph (c) are not necessarily improper, but they are sufficiently questionable to warrant notifying the appropriate authorities, in accordance with agency procedures.

(c) Practices or events that may evidence violations of the antitrust laws include—

(1) The existence of an “industry price list” or “price agreement” to which contractors refer in formulating their offers;

(2) A sudden change from competitive bidding to identical bidding;

(3) Simultaneous price increases or follow-the-leader pricing;

(4) Rotation of bids or proposals, so that each competitor takes a turn in sequence as low bidder, or so that certain competitors bid low only on some sizes of contracts and high on other sizes;

(5) Division of the market, so that certain competitors bid low only for contracts let by certain agencies, or for contracts in certain geographical areas, or on certain products, and bid high on all other jobs;

(6) Establishment by competitors of a collusive price estimating system;

(7) The filing of a joint bid by two or more competitors when at least one of the competitors has sufficient technical capability and productive capacity for contract performance;

(8) Any incidents suggesting direct collusion among competitors, such as the appearance of identical calculation or spelling errors in two or more competitive offers or the submission by one firm of offers for other firms; and

(9) Assertions by the employees, former employees, or competitors of offerors, that an agreement to restrain trade exists.

(d) Identical bids shall be reported under this section if the agency has some reason to believe that the bids resulted from collusion.

(e) For offers from foreign contractors for contracts to be performed outside the United States and its outlying areas, contracting officers may refer suspected collusive offers to the authorities of the foreign government concerned for appropriate action.

(f) Agency reports shall be addressed to the—

Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington DC 20530
Attention: Assistant Attorney General
Antitrust Division

and shall include—

(1) A brief statement describing the suspected practice and the reason for the suspicion; and

(2) The name, address, and telephone number of an individual in the agency who can be contacted for further information.

(g) Questions concerning this reporting requirement may be communicated by telephone directly to the Office of the Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division.

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