Firms fight bid-rigging fines

24 November 2009

24 November 2009 | Allie Anderson

A total of seven building firms have lodged petitions with the Competition Appeal Tribunal against financial penalties imposed on them by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for their involvement in anti-competitive activities.

GMI Construction (fined £1,752,584), Crest Nicholson (£5,188,848), GF Tomlinson (£1,269,270), Durkan Holdings (£6,720,551), Ballast Nedlam (£8,333,116) and Quarmby Construction (£881,749) submitted appeals yesterday before the 5pm deadline. Kier Group, whose fine totalled £17,894,438, lodged its plea last week.

All seven firms are seeking to have particular infringements repealed or fines in respect of infringements reduced or quashed, as well as asking to be recompensed for legal costs. There is currently no deadline by which the OFT must file its response.

The companies were among 103 investigated and fined a total of £129.5 million by the OFT in September for their involvement in bid-rigging between 2000 and 2006.

The OFT said this was mostly in the form of "cover pricing", where competing contractors colluded to fix a high price for a deal, leaving other buyers with a false idea of the competition (Web news, 22 September). The news comes after the OFT announced it was reducing the fines it levied against three other construction firms involved in the scandal because it had miscalculated their individual annual turnover figures (Web news, 23 November).

The OFT admitted the error as it published the full 1,945-page report detailing specific allegations, evidence and findings of its investigation, together with its calculations of the fines. An OFT spokesman said in a statement: "The OFT will consider all appeals on their merits, but believes its decision to be robust and accordingly anticipates contesting all appeals."

SMnov2009

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