Expert legal advice from the competition lawyers

Berkshire residential estate agents competition case

First published by Matt on February 12, 2020 in the following categories: Cartels Latest Price Fixing Price Hikes Pricing and tagged with | | | | |

estate agents guilty of price fixing

Here’s the latest news involving the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation into alleged competition infringements involving Berkshire residential estate agents.

The investigation was launched in early 2018 on the basis that the CMA suspected that there may be infringements of important competition law. In June last year, the CMA issued a formal statement of objections to four estate agents with allegations of breaches, and a settlement was reached with two agents in October. More fines were then issued at the end of last year.

In the often-volatile property market, competition law breaches that leave buyers and sellers paying more simply cannot go unpunished.

Statement of objections issued

The statement of objections issued by the CMA in the Berkshire residential estate agents competition case involved the following four agents:

  • Michael Hardy;
  • Prospect;
  • Richard Worth;
  • Romans.

The allegations were that they had been fixing prices as part of a cartel agreement by charging minimum commission fees for their traditional estate agency service.

Two Berkshire residential estate agents settle

In October 2019, the CMA reported that two of the Berkshire residential estate agents involved admitted to participating in an illegal cartel.

The agents that settled were Michael hardy and Prospect.

As a result of their admissions, they reportedly agreed to pay fines that totalled £411,608, which included the common discounts for the fact that they accepted their wrongdoing.

Fines and outcome of the investigation

The investigation into the Berkshire residential estate agents came to a head at the end of last year, when the CMA confirmed in December 2019 that an infringement decision had been made.

It was confirmed that the agents had been fixing prices and charging minimum amounts between September 2008 and May 2015, and fines that totalled £605,519 were issued. It’s understood that confidential information of a commercially sensitive nature had been exchanged, with meetings reportedly held to ensure all agents were maintaining their minimum fee rates.

The CMA said that the agents had illegally fixed prices and were setting minimum commission rates for customers. This will have undoubtedly resulted in consumers paying more with minimum prices set and competition stifled. The areas affected were reported to have been Bracknell, Crowthorne, Warfield, Winnersh, and Wokingham.

When consumers pay more and the companies profit from it through underhanded tactics like price fixing and sharing information, the winners and losers are clear. When it comes to the housing sector where costs can be high and the market can be volatile, any stifling of competition must not go unpunished. It’s pleasing to see that the CMA has achieved another successful resolution to this case with the offenders duly punished.

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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