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Fee-fixing estate agency directors disqualified for three years each

CMA reveals it has made two directors of Abbott & Frost in Burnham-on-Sea sign disqualification undertakings and is considering whether to add more agents in the town to the list.

Nigel Lewis

Two estate agents involved in last year’s fee-fixing scandal in Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset have been disqualified as directors and banned from taking up any directorships for over three years.

David Baker and Julian Frost, who were both senior members of staff at Abbott and Frost and high profile local business people who sponsored the local football team, are the first directors to be disqualified following last year’s investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) into fee-fixing among the town’s agents.

The CMA went on to fine a group of six estate agents in Burnham-on-Sea a total of £370,000.

Agreeing prices with competitors is one of the most serious ways a company can break competition law, as it harms individuals, businesses and the economy.”

At the time the CMA said it found that the agents who between them controlled 95% of the local market had met and entered into an anti-competitive agreement to fix their minimum commission rates in the town at 1.5%.

The agents involved were Abbott and Frost Estate Agents Limited, Gary Berryman Estate Agents Ltd (and its ultimate parent company Warne Investments Limited), Greenslade Taylor Hunt, Saxons PS Limited, and West Coast Property Services (UK) Limited.

David Baker has now undertaken not to act as a director for three and a half years, while Julian Frost has made a similar undertaking to last for three years.

Disqualification

If either of them contravene the undertakings they may be prosecuted for a criminal offence.

The CMA says it is now considering whether to disqualify directors from any of the other companies involved in the fee-fixing agreement.

“Agreeing prices with competitors is one of the most serious ways a company can break competition law, as it harms individuals, businesses and the economy,” says Michael Grenfell, the CMA’s Executive Director for Enforcement (pictured, left).

“When, as in this case, estate agents agreed among themselves commission fee rates, the effect is to stop people from shopping around for the best deal on one of the biggest financial decisions any of us make – selling a house.”

Read more about the fee-fixing cartel.

 

April 10, 2018

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