Agents warned over adverts
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will warn estate agents that they are at risk of breaking the law if they make anti-competitive advertising deals with newspapers that barr the display of all fees and discounts in the industry.
The CMA said such an agreement limited the ability of estate agents to compete with each other on fees and made it harder for consumers to compare prices and get value for money, three estate agents and a local paper in Surrey were fined in March by the CMA for breaking competition law.
The agents were members of a local trade association who did not advertise their fees, the local paper agreed with them not to take ads from estate agents who did want to advertise fees, this agreement in itself limited the ability for agents to compete fairly with each other and for consumers to be able to compare fees. The consumer watchdog mentioned it will be writing to agents and local papers it suspects of carrying out this practice and will be informing them to end any such agreements immediately.
Those companies that break competition law in such a way can be fined up to 10% of their annual turnover and the directors can be disqualified for up to 15 years, more serious cases attract more serious penalties including sentences of up to 5 years and fines.
Ann Pope, acting executive director of enforcement at the CMA is quoted as saying”The CMA is keen to work with businesses across the property and newspaper publishing industries to explain the implications of this case and ensure they understand what they need to do to comply with competition law and can recognise where they may be at risk of breaking it.”