Accused left in limbo during downturn’s toughest period

The 112 contractors accused of bid-rigging by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) will have to wait six months longer than expected for a decision on whether they will be fined.

It’s understood that the OFT has privately informed senior industry figures that the original January 2008 deadline for announcements on the sizes of fines and final accusations against firms will now be postponed until the middle of next year.

That means the fine, which could be a maximum of 10% of a firm’s annual turnover, will come in the middle of one of the bleakest economic periods for the industry. However, firms that appeal the verdict can delay payment of the bulk of fines, reports Building magazine.

It’s thought the delay is down to the large number of cases involved and the number of responses to accusations the OFT made in April. An OFT spokesperson would not confirm the date the findings would be released, but said: ‘I’d expect it to be later rather than sooner, because of the sheer number of firms involved.’

The news comes a week after Contract Journal reported that one in ten of the original 112 firms accused are now either in administration or liquidation. There are fears that the high levels of fines could send even more companies under.