The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has this morning announced that two agents involved in the Burnham-on-Sea cartel case have given undertakings that they will not act as directors of any UK company.
David Baker, former director of estate agency Abbott and Frost Estate Agents, has given a disqualification undertaking not to act as a director of any UK company for three and a half years.
Julian Frost, another director of Abbott and Frost, has given a disqualification undertaking not to act as a director of any UK company for three years.
Abbott and Frost were among five Somerset agents fined more than £370,000 last year for secretly agreeing between themselves the fees they would charge – 1.5%.
The CMA’s investigation showed that a number of directors were actively involved in the cartel or were aware of it, and failed to take steps to stop it. Today, the CMA said it is continuing to investigate whether to seek the disqualification of other directors of companies involved in the price-fixing cartel.
However, it added: “Provided they continue to comply with the terms of their leniency agreement, however, the CMA will not seek the disqualification of the co-operating directors of three of the estate agents, which qualified for leniency under the CMA’s leniency policy.”
Michael Grenfell, executive director for enforcement at the CMA, said: “Agreeing prices with competitors is one of the most serious ways a company can break competition law, as it harms individuals, businesses and the economy.
“When, as in this case, estate agents agree among themselves commission fee rates, the effect is to stop people from shopping around for the best deal to help them with one of the biggest financial decisions any of us make – selling a house.
“Company directors have an important responsibility to ensure that their companies don’t engage in illegal anti-competitive practices.
“Today’s news should send a clear message to directors that if their companies breach competition law they risk personal disqualification.”
Under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986, the CMA may seek the disqualification of an individual from holding a company directorship or performing certain roles in relation to a company for a specified period where that individual was a director of a company which has breached competition law and their conduct makes them unfit to be a director. The CMA may seek disqualification by a court order or legally binding undertaking.
See the Residential estate agency services in the Burnham-on-Sea area investigation case page.