Bid-rigging and cover-pricing prosecutions stick to 103 construction

Some of the biggest construction and maintenance firms in the country have been hit by multi-million-pound fines following a five-year investigation into bid rigging by the Office of Fair Trading.

More than 100 firms were hit with fines totalling £130m after the OFT found them guilty of anti-competitive practices including bid-rigging and cover-pricing.

Kier suffered the largest fine of £17.9m. Other firms caught up in the investigation were Interserve, which was fined £11.6m, Balfour Beatty (£5.2m) and Galliford Try (£8.3m).

The OFT found six instances where firms had engaged in more serious anti-competitive behaviour, where successful bidders made payments of between £2,500 and £60,000 to unsuccessful bidders.

Stephen Ratcliffe, director of UK Contractors Group (UKCG), said the penalties were harsh, but contractors could no longer breach competition law.

“Now the investigation is over, we must all move on and ensure that the companies who have been fined for past practices are not discriminated against in the future,” he said.

The OFT has also imposed fines totalling £39.27m on six construction recruitment agencies for price-fixing and the collective boycott of another company in the supply of candidates.

Two other recruitment agencies involved have been granted immunity from fines in return for exposing the cartel.

The OFT has concluded that A Warwick Associates, Beresford Blake Thomas, CDI AndersElite, Eden Brown, Fusion People, Hays Specialist Recruitment, Henry Recruitment and Hill McGlynn & Associates all breached the Competition Act 1998.

They were found to have engaged in anti-competitive conduct in the form of price fixing and a collective boycott of supply.