Four estate agents have been fined for breaking laws on commission charges, resulting in a £600,000 fine.
Michael Hardy, Prospect, Romans and Richard Worth were all issued fines for taking part in a price-fixing ‘cartel’, which started in 2018 and lasted seven years.
During this time, the estate agents conspired to set and maintain minimum commission rates for the sale of residential properties in Wokingham, Winnersh, Crowthorne, Bracknell and Warfield.
Although the estate agents were relatively small businesses, they were leaders in the Berkshire area’s residential market at the time.
The estate agents implemented their illegal arrangement primarily through secret meetings where they discussed sensitive information.
One director wrote via email: “The company average fee is now around 1.8%. I am willing to do whatever it takes to get this sorted. We’ve had meetings over the last few weeks with other agents […] and there is at last a general consensus that something should be done.”
According to the CMA, all four agents met to discuss their fee levels, until the ‘cartel’ broke down in May 2018.
Three agents were fined a total of £605,519. As the fourth agent brought the illegal activity to the CMA’s attention and fully cooperated with the investigation, it received immunity from fines and director disqualifications under the CMA’s Leniency Programme.