Property owners overcharged by estate agent price-fixing ‘cartel’

One of the firms, Prospect, said the CMA investigation only applied to a few of its ten branches, and that the estate agents were simply trying not to aggressively undercut one another.

Colin Wells, of Prospect, said: “This was never a situation of us wanting to decrease competition or market choice for consumers. In fact we wanted the exact opposite. 2008 was a difficult year for everyone and we were worried the larger agents could remove local agencies from UK high streets altogether by using their financial strength to undercut the market.”

The Richard Worth branch being investigated was bought out of administration by Adelfas Property Group.

An Adelfas spokesman said: “The internal checks and procedures of Adelfas Property Group will ensure that it will never be placed in a position that could be construed as anti-competitive.

“It would however be remiss of us not to recognise that Richard Worth Ltd (in administration), from whom we bought the name and assets in 2018, is subject to the CMA’s investigation but this is not a matter we are able to comment on.”

Peter Kavanagh, of Romans, said: “In June 2017, senior directors of Romans became aware that, some years ago, a small number of Romans residential sales executives across a few branches had acted in a manner totally contrary to the standards and values of the company.”

A spokesman for Michael Hardy declined to comment.

In 2017 the CMA fined four Somerset estate agents more than £370,000 in total for price-fixing.

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