Five estate agents in Somerset have been fined £370,000 by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for operating an illegal rate-fixing cartel.
The six estate agents attended a secret meeting where they agreed to set a minimum price of 1.5% commission for selling residential properties, preventing sellers from getting a better deal elsewhere. They took it in turns to police the agreement, sending emails if anyone 'cheated' on the rest.
A sixth estate agent was not fined because it was the first to inform the CMA of the agreement.
The CMA is clamping down on anti-competitive practices in the estate agency sector after a £735k fine in 2015.
Follow these tips to help create a level playing field and comply with competition law:
- Take extra care at events where any of your competitors are present - it's always safest to avoid talking business with rivals.
- Avoid any conversations on pricing, strategy, territory and customers - you must decide and make business decisions independently. If discussions stray into topics that are off-limits, voice your objections and leave.
- Don't underestimate it - competition rules apply to small and big business. If you break the law, firms can be fined up to 10% of global turnover, and individuals may be banned or face imprisonment for up to 5 years.
- If you make a mistake, come clean about it - you may receive leniency and avoid sanctions if you speak up first.
- Report any concerns you have to the CMA's cartel's hotline - Email email@example.com or phone: 0800 085 1664 or 020 3738 6888. Remember you may avoid sanctions if you speak up first.