details revealed on Burnham-On-Sea estate agents' cartel scheme
Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has this week published
new details of the findings against a group of six Burnham-On-Sea
estate agencies which fixed commission rates.
agencies all based in the town agreed to fix their
minimum commission at 1.5 per cent.
CMA has this week released new background information on the 2015
case for the first time as part of a reminder to all agents not
to act uncompetitively.
CMA says: "By publishing our findings in this recent investigation,
the CMA reveals exactly what the agents involved did, and is also
reminding others to comply with competition law and avoid being
group of estate agents all based in Burnham-On-Sea
had a meeting and agreed to fix their minimum commission rates at
1.5% with the aim of making the agents involved more money, so denying
local home owners the chance of getting a better deal when selling
a bit of talking and cooperation between us, we all win!' was their
rationale. Email evidence also explained how 'the aim of the meeting
will be to drive the fee level up to 1.5%' and '
really important we all give it the priority it deserves (making
as much as profit as possible!)'."
the meeting they agreed to form what is known as an illegal 'cartel'
when two or more businesses agree not to compete with each
estate agents took steps to ensure the minimum fee agreement was
kept to by emailing each other when a specific issue arose, such
as accusations of 'cheating' on their agreement."
business also took it in turn to 'police' the cartel to make sure
everyone was sticking to the agreement - parties were to report
any issues 'to the policeman immediately and get the matter resolved
rather than let it fester and risk the agreement falling apart!'"
Blake, Senior Director of Cartel Enforcement, added: "Cartels
are a form of cheating. They are typically carried out in secret
to make you think you are getting a fair deal, even though the businesses
involved are conspiring to keep prices high."
are committed to tackling cartels regardless of the size of the
businesses involved. We have taken action against estate agents
before, and remain committed to tackling competition law issues
in the sector."
Munro, head of the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team,
said: "We welcome the CMAs reminder to the property sector
of the importance of competition law. Being part of a cartel can
have serious consequences for both businesses and individuals, so
it is crucial that estate agents are aware of their competition
the industry regulator we use cases like this as a trigger to assess
the fitness of an individual or business to engage in estate agency
work. This can lead to a formal warning or lifetime ban in engaging
in this work."
31st May, the CMA issued a decision finding that 6 estate agents
had infringed competition law. The CMA imposed fines totalling £370,084
on 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.
sixth party, Annagram Estates Limited (trading as CJ Hole), has
not been fined as it was the first undertaking to confess its participation
in the arrangement under the CMAs leniency policy and co-operated
with the CMAs investigation.
for Abbott and Frost, Gary Berryman, Greenslade Taylor Hunt and
West Coast include a discount to reflect savings due to their admissions
and co-operation with the CMA under settlement agreements. Fines
for West Coast and GTH also include reductions for leniency under
the CMAs leniency policy.