Three estate agencies in Berkshire have been fined more than £600,000 after being investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for price fixing activity that began in 2008.
Estate agents Michael Hardy, Prospect, Richard Worth and Romans broke competition law by taking part in a price fixing cartel that was operated for seven years in the towns of Wokingham, Winnersh, Crowthorne, Bracknell and Warfield.
At the time the agents were the leading estate agencies in these property markets.
Each company was found to have exchanged confidential information on pricing and held meetings to make sure all members enforced and maintained the agreed minimum rates.
Although Romans was found guilty along with the other estate agences in June, it was the company that brought the cartel to the attention of the CMA and, therefore, it will not have to pay a fine, leaving the remaining three agencies to foot the bill.
The individual fines for this trio have not been revealed, but Michael Hardy and Prospect are to pay a discounted fine to reflect the fact that they admitted to illegal behaviour and agreed to cooperate with the CMA.
“It is disappointing that we’ve found yet another case of estate agents breaking competition law,” says Michael Grenfell, the CMA’s Executive Director of Enforcement (left).
“We trust that the fines issued today will reinforce our message that we expect the sector to clean up its act and make sure customers are not being ripped off in this way.
“The industry needs to take note: this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. If you break the law, you risk similar consequences.”
Read more about the CMA’s Stop Cartels campaign.