Berkshire Estate Agents are Disqualified for Price Rigging

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Action by the Competition and Markets Authority has resulted in directors of two Berkshire estate agencies being banned for their part in an illegal price-fixing cartel.

Stephen Jones and Neil Mackenzie, had been directors at estate agents Richard Worth and Michael Hardy, respectively, from September 2008 to May 2015. During this time, their firms had been part of a cartel with two other local estate agents. The firms conspired together to set minimum rates for commission on the sale of residential properties in Wokingham, Winnersh, Crowthorne, Bracknell and Warfield – where they were the leading estate agents at that time.

Jones and Mackenzie were both disqualified for six and a half years for their roles in the cartel, meaning they cannot act as directors of any companies or be involved in the management of any company based in England, Scotland or Wales during this time.

The bans follow a CMA investigation which found that four estate agents cad operated a cartel for almost seven years. They exchanged confidential information on pricing and held meetings to make sure all members of the cartel enforced and maintained the agreed minimum rates.

This meant homeowners in the affected areas were denied the chance of securing the best possible deal when selling their property because they were unable to meaningfully shop around all their local estate agents for a better commission rate, said CMA.

As a result of the investigation, three of the four estate agents – including Richard Worth and Michael Hardy – were fined over £600,000 for their participation in the cartel.

Selling your home can be a stressful and expensive experience, and one that shouldn’t be made harder by estate agents conspiring to cheat homeowners out of the best deal’, said CMA executive director of enforcement Michael Grenfell.

‘Company directors have an important responsibility to make sure their firms don’t take part in this kind of anti-competitive behaviour.

‘Today’s disqualifications should send a clear message to the sector – stay on the right side of the law or face the consequences’.

The two latest disqualifications bring the total number of directors disqualified following a CMA investigation to 18. As part of the Company Directors

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