Estate agents fined £600,000 after breaching competition laws

Four prominent estate agencies have been fined over half a million pounds after taking part in an illegal price-fixing cartel.

Handing down the £600,000 fine, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said corporate misbehaviour will “not be tolerated”.

According to the case report, four Berkshire-based agencies “conspired” to set minimum commission rates for the sale of residential properties within their region, over which the group effectively had a monopoly.

It is believed that the estate agents exchanged confidential information on pricing and held meetings to enforce agreed minimum rates for almost seven years.

As a result, local homeowners were forced to pay more to sell their property for a less competitive service.

The operation was uncovered after a whistleblower reported suspicious activity to the regulator.

Commenting on the report, Michael Grenfell, CMA Executive Director of Enforcement, said: “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.

He added: “The industry needs to take note: this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. If you break the law, you risk similar consequences.”

According to the CMA, this is the third case to involve residential estate agents in recent years, with three agents being fined £735,000 in May 2015 and four agents being fined £370,000 in March 2017.