Ignoring the Bribery Act 2010 could cost companies dearly, according to law firm Prettys.

The Act, which looks likely to come into force later this year, may extend to normal business conduct that many companies do not realise will be affected. Being unaware of the legislation, which will carry harsh penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and unlimited fines, will be no defence.

Whilst a common sense approach to proportionate corporate gifts and hospitality is expected, the legal specialists warn it is vital to assess the potential risks to your organisation and put preventative measures in place now.

The new Bribery Act 2010 (the “Act”) will impact on UK businesses in three important ways. First, it will outlaw the offering, promise, giving or receipt of bribes as a way of securing a contract. Secondly, the bribery of a foreign public official will be outlawed. Thirdly, it will create a new corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery by employees, subsidiaries or agents. The Act will therefore have significant implications for all UK businesses, in particular those which operate in countries where similar regulations do not apply. This could put UK companies at a disadvantage when competing for overseas business.

Fiona McMutrie, Partner at Prettys, comments: “The new corporate offence is of greatest importance as any person associated with the organisation who is involved in bribery or corruption may cause the organisation to be found in breach of the Act. Importantly, the organisation will be guilty of the offence (even if it was unaware of what was happening) unless it can show that it had in place adequate procedures designed to prevent bribery.”