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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

A new scandal? Investigation into estate agents likely to report in New Year

The Competitions and Markets Authority says the result of its latest probe into estate agencies’ possible infringement of the Competition Act is likely to be released by or in February.

The new timetable was released over the weekend.

The CMA first made an announcement about a probe back in March; details remain very sketchy, and the CMA declines to give any additional information beyond an occasional brief update. 

However, it is known that this latest investigation has been launched on the basis of information received following the decision of the CMA in a previous probe - the infamous Turnham-On-Sea cartel case.

That scandal dates right back to 2013 and involved the agencies Greenslade Taylor Hunt, Gary Berryman Estate Agents, Abbott and Frost Estate Agents, Annagram Estates, Saxons PS, West Coast Property Services. 

Ultimately the CMA imposed fines totalling £370,084 on some of the agents involved in this cartel. One other was not fined as it was the first to confess its participation in the cartel under the CMA’s leniency policy and cooperated with the CMA’s investigation.

However, the shock waves sent through the industry by the case led to further information about other agents being passed to the CMA - it is this information that is now the subject of a separate investigation.

The CMA, in a statement over the weekend, says the new case “is at an early stage and no assumption should be made that the [Competition Act] has been infringed.”

It continues that the authority “has not reached a view as to whether there is sufficient evidence of an infringement of competition law for it to issue a statement of objections to any of the parties under investigation.”

However, it says that as a result of preliminary work on the case between February and September this year the decision has been taken to proceed for a more formal investigation. 

There will be a “further update by the end of February 2019” says the CMA.

It is understood that the initial investigation up to last mo nth included information gathering, the issuance of formal or informal information requests, and reviewing parties’ responses.

Watch this space - by February the industry should know more and whether this case is as big as the Turnham-On-Sea cartel.

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    This isn't the probe that central London agents should fear. What I am hearing is that the Government are pressuring the NCA to open a wider probe into the facilitation of money laundering by PCL agents over the past decade. They are going to be asked to justify all transactions over a certain size involving a group of perceived 'high risk' clients (i.e. Russians, Caymans companies etc.). That is likely to involve some very awkward discussions I suspect, given the AML duty which agents should have been following, but were they?

  • James Robinson

    What I never understood was how companies like Countrywide were able to buy all the agents in a town or borough and keep them trading under different company names without The Competitions and Markets Authority investigating. In some instances vendors could invite three different agents in to value without knowing they were all the same company. For instance Hamptons, JDWood and Faron Sutaria all of which, at one time, shared the same MD.

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