Competition watchdog wants construction whistle-blowers
The Competition and Market Authority (CMA) is calling for more whistle-blowers in construction to expose business cartels, after launching a national awareness campaign.
The move came as the CMA revealed it was currently investigating 15 cases, including some involving construction, roofing materials and estate agency firms.
Meanwhile, it has issued over £155m in fines since April 2015. The authority fined water tank firms £2.6m after they formed a cartel to divide up customers, fix minimum prices and share commercially sensitive information for tanks used in large construction projects such as schools and hospitals.
The focus of the new campaign will be on construction, property management and maintenance, as well as manufacturing, recruitment, and estate agents.
The CMA said it wanted to educate businesses about which practices are illegal and urges people to come forward if they suspect a business has taken part in cartel behaviour, such as fixing prices or rigging contracts.
Only 57% of the 1,200 companies it surveyed as part of new research knew it was illegal to fix prices
Nearly half either didn’t know or thought it was legal to discuss prices with competing bidders when quoting for new work (23% said ‘don’t know’, and 25% actually thought it was legal).
More than half (59%) didn’t know or thought that dividing up and sharing customers with rivals was legal (24% said ‘don’t know’ and 35% actually thought it was legal).
Howard Cartlidge, senior director of cartels at the CMA, said: “Businesses that fix prices or rig contracts are breaking the law and ripping people off.
“The victims are customers and other businesses, who are getting cheated out of a fair deal.
“We know that the vast majority of businesses want to do the right thing, but pleading ignorance simply isn’t good enough. Today’s campaign makes it easy to find out the facts.
“If you know of something illegal – do the right thing and tell us about it.”