Latest News

Northern Ireland house prices end the decade showing continuous growth

19 February 2020

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency have released their findings for the Northern Ireland House Price Index for the period between October and December 2019 and show the positive figures from previous quarters have continued throughout the year. Read More...

Scotland house prices end the year over 2 per cent higher

19 February 2020

The most recent report from the Registers of Scotland has revealed the average house price for a property in Scotland during December 2019 was £151,603, an annual price increase of 2.2 per cent. Read More...

£16 million to go to survivors of domestic violence

17 February 2020

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed that 75 councils across England will benefit from funding to help boost their domestic abuse refuge services. Read More...

Christopher Pincher is tenth Housing Minister in a decade

14 February 2020

Christopher Pincher MP has been appointed Housing Minister in the cabinet reshuffle replacing Esther McVey. Mr Pincher is the MP for Tamworth and was previously the Minister of State for Europe and the Americas. Read More...

MHCLG responds to business rates concerns

12 February 2020

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has responded to Propertymark’s concerns about the level of business rates faced by agents on the high street. Read More...

Housing Secretary greenlights £1 billion support for builders

11 February 2020

Millions of pounds in new loans will be paid out to support small and medium-sized firms, the Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP has confirmed in an announcement to Parliament. Read More...

CMA gives details of cartel investigation and sanctions

Thursday 23 January 2020

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published its decision on a cartel of Berkshire estate agents where they conspired, for seven years, to set minimum commission rates where they were the top agents.

As Propertymark reported in December local homeowners in Wokingham, Winnersh, Crowthorne, Bracknell, and Warfield were unable to shop around local agents for a deal on commission rates as a result of the cartel behaviour.

The CMA has already announced penalties of £142,843, £268,765 and £193,911 for three of the parties involved. A fourth has been spared under the CMA’s leniency policy as they brought the cartel to light and have continued to comply with the law.

The 131-page report, published on 23 January 2020, reflects the depth of the CMA’s investigation. Their findings are supported by contemporaneous documents such as emails, reports, diary entries, and Outlook appointments, together with witness evidence from two of the individuals directly involved in the Minimum Fee Arrangement.

It details how the cartel made a Minimum Fee Arrangement and monitored and exchanged information on each other’s commission fees including contacting each other directly on suspected breaches. At least two parties developed internal reporting and monitoring mechanisms to check compliance by the other parties and agreed that penalty payments would be made if a Party breached the Minimum Fee Arrangement.

Quote mark

Agents must be aware of competition law; there’s no excuse for collusion. Activities such as price-fixing are not in the consumers best interests and means they might not be able to secure the best deal when selling a property. We have been promoting the CMA’s Stop Cartels campaign to educate agents about price-fixing, market sharing, and bid-rigging. We continue to urge all our members to adhere to current legislation to ensure best practice. - Speaking in 2019 when the CMA findings were first made.

Mark Hayward

Mark Hayward
Chief Executive, NAEA Propertymark

 

Quote mark

Ignorance or a mistake of law does not prevent a finding of intentional infringement, even where such ignorance or mistake is based on independent legal advice – CMA ruling

 

The CMA found that the agents were aware, and discussed, that their actions might amount to a cartel, but still went ahead with it, with some agencies instructing agents not to put any details in writing, suggesting that the action was taken deliberately or at least negligently.

The CMA stresses throughout the report that even if an agent played only a limited part in an agreement, they remain a party to that agreement and legally liable unless they “publicly distance” themselves from the illegal activity.

The full CMA ruling can be read on the gov.uk website

PROPERTYMARK RESOURCES

Propertymark has a number of resources available including training courses to help agents to understand and comply with the law.

Training courses

STOP CARTELS CAMPAIGN

It is vital that agents are alert to the dangers of breaking competition law and clear on what they can and cannot discuss with rivals. The CMA has a wealth of information on the Stop Cartels campaign page to help businesses understand competition law rules and how best to report suspected illegal business behaviour.

Stop Cartels Campaign