Over the past decade, dramatic technological advances have brought about fundamental changes in the ways people communicate. For example, e-mail has been the communication tool of choice for many years, but would-be price-fixers are also increasingly using other, more cutting-edge communication tools. Agreements reached in smoke-filled rooms have given way to those reached in chat rooms or other electronic means.
The Antitrust Division stays ahead of the technological curve by working with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. We are constantly re-assessing and actively adjusting our investigative practices and tools to counter the increased use of new technology and ensure our evidence-gathering processes are effective.
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In recent investigations, the Division has seen conspirators use chat rooms, text messaging services, encrypted messaging apps, and social media platforms to coordinate price increases, discuss upcoming bids, and allocate customers.
To take one recent example, the Division filed charges in August 2017 against two companies and their top executives for conspiring to fix the prices of customized promotional products sold online. Their conspiracy was carried out online, through social media and encrypted messaging apps; the conspirators used Facebook, Skype, and WhatsApp to reach and implement their illegal agreements while attempting to cover their tracks. All four defendants pleaded guilty.
August 7, 2017
August 22, 2017