Thank goodness for the common sense shown by Tony Bingham in drawing a clear distinction between bid rigging and cover pricing (16 May, page 64).
The stark differences between the two practices highlighted by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation, both in intention by the contractor and consequence for the client, are clear for all to see. Of course cover pricing is a breach of competition law but, unlike bid rigging, it was used only to avoid winning work, not to artificially hike prices.
Of the 112 companies listed in the OFT’s statement of objections, more than 100 were charged with the more minor infringement yet the OFT insists on rolling allegations of bid rigging and cover pricing together, causing consternation across the industry and confusion and concern among clients.
Contractor and client alike need clarity on this issue if they are to move on and repair relationships and the reputational damage caused to companies and the wider industry. I challenge the OFT to acknowledge the obvious difference and help to put this whole investigation into a clearer context.
Stephen Ratcliffe, chief executive, Construction Confederation