OFT miscalculated some bid-rigging fines

23 November 2009

23 November 2009 | Allie Anderson

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has reduced by more than £300,000 the fines it levied against three building firms for anti-competitive activity because it had miscalculated their individual earnings.

The watchdog revised the penalties it imposed on R Durtnell & Sons, E Manton and Wildgoose Construction because the sums used to work out the amount each should be charged "included errors in the relevant turnover figures used".

The three firms were among the 103 investigated and fined a total of £129.5 million by the OFT 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)

Durtnell & Sons was originally fined £711,115 but this was cut to £544,034. The penalty given to E Manton was reduced from £226,096 to £117,650 and Wildgoose Construction's initial fine of £309,204 was cut to £281,194.

Details of the infringements remained the same and the penalties dished out to the other 100 companies were unaffected. The amendments brought the total amount fined to £129.2 million.

The admission came on Friday as the OFT published the full, 1,945-page report detailing specific allegations, evidence and findings of its investigation together with its calculations of the fines. This includes the names and dates of tenders, parties involved and the approximate value of the winning bid in all 199 infringements.

Meanwhile, another construction company, Kier Group, which was fined almost £18 million by the OFT, is challenging the extent of the penalty. It said in a statement: "Kier confirms that it has lodged an appeal with the Competition Appeal Tribunal against the quantum of the fine imposed on it by the Office of Fair Trading following its investigation into cover pricing in the industry."

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