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BERLIN (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators on Thursday unveiled plans to help individuals to blow the whistle on cartels while protecting their identity, a move which may lead to more cases of wrongdoing being uncovered in the future.
The European Commission, which currently relies on companies to alert them to cartels in exchange for no sanction, said the scheme is aimed at employees who want to do the right thing by stopping illegal price fixing.
"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," European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.
The scheme protects whistleblowers' anonymity through an encrypted messaging system that allows two-way communications between the individuals and the EU competition enforcer.
Germany has had a similar system since 2013.
The Commission has handed down 7.7 billion euros ($8.26 billion) in fines to various cartels in the last five years, sanctioning truckmakers, banks and car parts makers.
Reporting by Foo Yun Chee. Editing by Jane Merriman