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Agent fined by CMA says responsible partner 'acted alone'

One of the four estate agents fined by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for price-fixing has spoken about the details of its sanction.

Charles Clark, chairman of Greenslade Taylor Hunt, said his firm's involvement in the collusion was down to the 'misguided' actions of one of its partners.

He told Burnham-on-Sea.com that 'no other office or department was involved in any way whatsoever'.

News broke last week that four firms in the Somerset town of Burnham-on-Sea had agreed to pay fines totalling over £370,000 after a year-long investigation by the CMA.

The agencies agreed to set minimum commission rates for residential property sales at 1.5%, which the CMA says denied local homeowners the chance of securing the best deal.

Greenslade Taylor Hunt was handed the biggest fine (£186,054) which includes a reduction of 20% for settlement and a reduction of 15% for leniency.

"Any discussion of commission rates, however informal, between competing businesses, is not permissible and the firm condemns such behaviour in the strongest terms," Clark told the local news website.

He went on to say that the partner involved recognises that his actions amounted to 'gross misconduct'.

"He is completely mortified, recognises his error and regrets his involvement in every way," said Clark.

"Discussions are continuing as to the individual’s future responsibilities with the firm."

The other firms to be fined were Abbott and Frost (£30,099), Gary Berryman Estate Agents (£97,807) and West Coast Property Services (£58,273).

Another agency, Annagram Estate Agents, trading as C J Hole, escaped a fine after being the first company to confess to being involved in the practice.

The CMA has now fined agents over £1 million in two landmark cases concerning price-fixing.

"Price-fixing cheats customers and we are committed to tackling it regardless of the size of the businesses involved. We have taken action against estate agents before, and will do so again if firms break the law,” said Stephen Blake, the CMA’s senior director of cartel enforcement in a statement last week.

*Graham Norwood is on annual leave, returning Wednesday March 8. Conor Shilling will be undertaking editorial duties in his absence. Please send any press enquiries to press@estateagenttoday.co.uk.

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    Is it price fixing for dairy farmers to be paid a minimum amount for their milk? Or for employees to be paid a minimum wage? Its not as though 1.5% was an obscene figure, its sensible. Where I am not so very far away in Somerset even 1% is becoming harder to achieve which together with the lack of housing supply is certainly putting the squeeze on viability for running a modern quality high street agency. I'm not convinced that the downward spiralling of fees really is in the customers interest any more.

  • Trevor Mealham

    It's not easy Michael. For agents it comes under vertical agreements and price fixing, especially in geographical areas. 'Hardcore restrictions'

    Supermarkets did get hit a few years back £50m for pricing fixing on dairy products: https://www.ft.com/content/e1d14c9a-c338-11e0-9109-00144feabdc0

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