The firms – Michael Hardy, Prospect, Richard Worth and Romans – operated the cartel in the Berkshire area for almost seven years from September 2008 onwards.
The CMA’s investigation found that the businesses agreed they would all apply minimum commission rates for residential sales, exchanged confidential pricing information, and held meetings to ensure that all firms were “enforcing and maintaining” the agreed minimum fees.
The CMA declared that because of this price fixing, homeowners were denied the chance to find the best possible deal when selling as they could not shop around for a better rate.
As these findings are provisional, the firms now have the opportunity to respond before any final decision is reached.
Third estate agent cartel
This is the third case brought against estate agents in recent years.
In 2017 four firms in Somerset were fined more than £370,000 and saw directors banned for colluding over minimum commission rates, while in 2015 three members of the Three Counties Estate Agent Association were fined £735,000 for breaking competition law over estate agent and letting fees.
Howard Cartlidge, senior director, cartels at the CMA, said: “Estate agents who conspire to set minimum commission rates are cheating homeowners and breaking the law.
“Where we find evidence that this is happening, we will not hesitate to take action to protect people selling their home.”