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CMA lays down the law when it comes to competition

Tuesday 09 October 2018

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) is continuing with an investigation into a suspected estate agents’ cartel, with the results of the probe likely to be released by or in February.

The announcement, which came over the weekend, will follow on from a review that was opened earlier in the year, looking into possible infringement of the Competition Act by estate agents.

Information provided by the CMA so far has been sparse, but it is understood that this latest investigation has been launched on the basis of information received following the decision of the CMA in a previous probe - the infamous Burnham-On-Sea cartel case. 

In 2017 a group of estate agents in Somerset agreed to work together to fix their minimum commission rates for selling residential properties. The investigation resulted in five of the estate agents involved being fined over £370,000 in total. One of the agents received immunity from fines by being the first to report it to the CMA under our leniency policy. Two company directors were also disqualified for their involvement in the cartel.

NAEA Propertymark Chief Executive, Mark Hayward, said: “All agents need to be aware of the laws around price fixing and market sharing. Keeping up with the competition can be tough and all agents are aware of the importance of fees in vendors’ decision making, however every agent must remember that it’s against the law to agree a fee level with your rivals to reduce competition. Historic fines are compelling.”

Last year, the CMA launched a campaign urging agents to 'be safe not sorry' when it comes to price-fixing, bid-rigging and market-sharing. As well as releasing a number of handy video guides to help businesses better understand competition law do's and don'ts, the CMA also created a cartel checker to help professionals and consumers determine if they have been directly involved or seen evidence of cartel activity.

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