Estate agents fined over half a million pounds for price fixing

Three Berkshire estate agents have been fined more than £600,000 for illegally fixing the minimum commission rates they charged their customers.

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The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that the three companies, together with a fourth company, broke competition law by taking part in a price-fixing cartel, which began in September 2008.

Local home owners denied choice

The companies conspired, for seven years, to set minimum commissions rates for residential property sales in areas where they were the top agents. Local home owners in Wokingham, Winnersh, Crowthorne, Bracknell and Warfield were unable to shop around local agents for a deal on commission rates as a result.

Fines imposed

The fourth company received no fine, as it brought the illegal activity to the CMA’s attention and fully cooperated with the investigation, under the CMA’s Leniency Programme. The total fines imposed take into account the companies’ behaviour, such as a reduction for the admission of illegal activity, which shortened the length of the investigation.

It is disappointing we’ve found yet another case of estate agents breaking competition law.

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.' 

Michael Grenfell Executive Director of Enforcement | Competition and Markets Authority

The CMA runs a Stop Cartels campaign, which aims to educate businesses about which practices are illegal and urges people to come forward if they suspect a business has taken part in cartel behaviour, such as rigging contracts or price fixing. It has also issued a range of guidance to help businesses understand more about how to comply with competition law.

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Stop Cartels campaign

It is vital that agents are alert to the dangers of breaking competition law, and clear on what they can and cannot discuss with rivals. The CMA has a wealth of information on the Stop Cartels campaign page to help businesses understand competition law rules and how best to report suspected illegal business behaviour.