Latest News

New Job Support Scheme announced by the Chancellor

24 September 2020

In a speech in the House of Commons today, 24 September, Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, outlined the UK Government’s next stage of the economic plan to protect jobs over the winter period with the announcement of a new Job Support Scheme. Read More...

Scottish moving homes guidance updated

24 September 2020

Further to the announcement on 22 September by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, where stronger measures to tackle the rise in COVID-19 infection rates were implemented, the Scottish Government has now updated its guidance on moving home. Read More...

New Chief Executive Officer of Propertymark appointed

24 September 2020

Tim Balcon joins Propertymark today, 24 September, as Chief Executive Officer, which is a newly created role, bringing over 20 years’ experience in membership and sector organisations. Read More...

Government extends support to stop business evictions in 2020

17 September 2020

Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, announced yesterday, 16 September, that all commercial tenants will be protected from the risk of eviction until the end of this year. Read More...

High Court rules in favour of agents over Business Interruption Insurance

15 September 2020

Thousands of companies disputing their insurers' interpretations of liability under Business Interruption Insurance welcome the court ruling today, 15 September, where it found in favour of the arguments advanced for policyholders on the majority of issues brought by the Financial Complaints Authority (FCA) test case. Read More...

New guide helps agents stay on the right side of competition law

15 September 2020

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), together with the Institute of Risk Management, has published a new edition of its short guide on competition law risk that will help agents to identify and reduce competition law risks. 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.

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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

 

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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