The latest price-fixing cartel investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has completed its initial phase and named four estate agencies in Berkshire.
These are Michael Hardy, Prospect, Richard Worth Ltd (in administration) and Romans all of which the CMA says its provisional findings reveal to have broken competition law.
It says the estate agencies took part in a price-fixing cartel which set minimum levels of sales commission fees within their local market.
The cartel also lasted for a shockingly extended period of time, beginning in 2007 and lasting until 2014.
Each of the companies involved were found to have agreed minimum commission rates, exchanged confidential pricing information and held meetings during which they colluded to jointly enforce their fees system among themselves.
Time to respond
The four companies now have the opportunity to respond to the provisional findings of the CMA investigation before a final announcement is made and any fines or voluntary directorship disqualifications are announced.
“Everyone knows selling your home is expensive,” says Howard Cartlidge, Senior Director, Cartels at the CMA (left).
“So it’s important that people should be able to shop around all of their local estate agents to make sure they are getting the best possible deal.
“Estate agents who conspire to set minimum commission rates are cheating homeowners and breaking the law. Where we find evidence that this is happening, we will not hesitate to take action to protect people selling their home.”
Today’s announcement is the third recent investigation by the CMA into estate agency cartels. It follows a similar cartel in Burnham on Sea, Somerset and, prior to that, an investigation into agents involved in the Three Counties Estate Agent Association cartel.