Estate and lettings agents warned not to break competition law
A number of estate and letting agents have been sent official letters warning them that they may be at risk of breaking competition law.
The letters, from the Competition and Markets Authority, follow a recent case in which an association of estate and letting agents, and a newspaper were fined a total of £735,000 for agreeing to restrict the advertising of fees or discounts in a local newspaper.
The CMA says it sent out the warning letters to other agents that may be engaging in similar practices. It has also received complaints about other groups of estate agents and newspapers who may become the subject of further legal action.
A statement from the CMA said: “Businesses that are found to have broken competition law can be fined up to 10% of their annual worldwide turnover, and company directors can be disqualified for up to 15 years where their conduct in relation to such a breach makes them unfit to be concerned in the management of a company.
“In addition, individuals involved in certain very serious cartel activity, such as price-fixing, may be found guilty of the criminal cartel offence and could go to prison for up to 5 years and/or have to pay an unlimited fine.”
The CMA is now working with a number of industry bodies, including the National Estate Agents Association and the Property Ombudsman, to help publicise the lessons to be learned from this case and encourage best practice.
Ann Pope, CMA Acting Executive Director, Enforcement, said: “We encourage businesses to have an effective compliance programme, including a clear and unambiguous commitment to competition law compliance from senior management. Businesses need to assess if they are at risk of breaking competition law and, if necessary, take steps to remedy the situation.”
Please contact Sing Li if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of competition law.