The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is cracking down on illegal cartels – businesses which cheat their customers by agreeing not to compete with each other in order to keep their prices high – and has highlighted estates agents as an industry with form.
A social media ad campaign is being launched to promote awareness, and whistleblowers are being offered a reward of up to £100,000 in return for (anonymously) sharing details of illegal practices that they have witnessed.
CMA research found that – whilst most businesses have a shared ethical sense that conduct such as price-fixing is unfair or wrong – less than a quarter of businesses said they knew competition law well.
Press bumf from the CMA flags up three recent cartel cases, including the fining of four Somerset estate agents a total of £370,000 for price-fixing.
Andrea Coscelli, Acting Chief Executive of the CMA: “Cartels are a form of stealing that cheat ordinary people as well as other businesses by undermining competition, and we are committed to tackling them wherever we find them. Cartels are carried out in secret to make you think you are getting a fair deal, even when you are being conspired against to keep prices high.
“Cartels are both harmful and illegal, and the consequences of breaking the law are extremely serious. That is why we are launching this campaign – to help people understand what cartel activity looks like and how to report it so we can take action.”