Berkshire estate agents fined for forming fee-fixing cartel
Three estate agents in Berkshire have been fined more than £600,000 after illegally fixing minimum commission rates for seven years.
Michael Hardy, Prospect, Richard Worth, and a fourth company, Romans, broke competition law by running the cartel.
It set minimum commission rates for properties in Wokingham, Winnersh, Crowthorne, Bracknell and Warfield.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said Romans would not be fined as it informed it about the racket.
The agents regularly met up to discuss private pricing details after initially fixing fees in September 2008, the CMA said.
Michael Grenfell, CMA's executive director of enforcement, said: "It is disappointing we've found yet another case of estate agents breaking competition law.
"We trust that the fines issued today will reinforce our message that we expect the sector to clean up its act and make sure customers are not being ripped off in this way.
"The industry needs to take note - this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated. If you break the law, you risk similar consequences."
Prospect has been fined £268,765, Michael Hardy will have to pay £142,843 and Richard Worth, which is now run by a different firm, has been fined £193,911.
Prospect said it had "been able to learn from past mistakes from years ago".
Michael Hardy's managing director, Neal Mackenzie, said it now had "robust procedures in place to ensure that all staff are fully aware of the rules surrounding cartels and fixing of fees".
Romans' CEO Peter Kavanagh said "a small number" of sales executives "had acted in a manner totally contrary to the standards and values of the company".