The Competitions and Markets Authority has started court proceedings seeking the disqualification of two estate agency directors over a price fixing scandal.
The CMA has this afternoon announced that it has issued proceedings in the High Court of Justice, Business and Property Courts seeking the disqualification of:
– Stephen Jones, a director of Richard Worth Holdings Limited and Richard Worth Limited (in administration); and
– Neal Mackenzie, a director of Michael Hardy & Company (Wokingham) Limited, Michael Hardy & Company (Lettings) Limited and Geocharbert UK Limited.
The Richard Worth and Michael Hardy firms, together with two other estate agencies, entered into an anti-competitive agreement to fix a minimum level of commission fees for the provision of residential sales services in the Berkshire area.
Shortly before Christmas the news broke of the CMA’s fines – totalling over £605,000 – on three of the firms involved in the scandal. This followed a year-long investigation.
The CMA also revealed emails sent between people working at Michael Hardy, Prospect, Richard Worth and a branch of Romans; the discussions took place between September 2008 and May 2015 and were part of what the CMA claims were a “concerted effort” to maintain a minimum commission fee for sales in the Wokingham, Winnersh, Crowthorne, Bracknell and Warfield areas of Berkshire.
This afternoon’s announcement says the CMA issued proceedings under section 9A of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 following an investigation into the directors’ conduct in relation to the breach of competition law.
“It is now for the court to decide whether to make a disqualification order against each director” says the authority.
The CMA continues: “Provided they continue to comply with the terms of their leniency agreement, the CMA will not seek the disqualification of the co-operating directors of the two other estate agencies, which qualified for leniency under the CMA’s leniency policy.”
Under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986, the CMA may seek the disqualification of an individual from holding a company directorship or performing certain roles in relation to a company for a specified period where that individual was a director of a company which has breached competition law and their conduct makes them unfit to be a director. The CMA may seek disqualification by court order or may accept a legally binding undertaking.
Hello and welcome to the latest edition of Conquering Corona, our daily update helping the industry cope with the current crisis.
If you have appropriate advice to share with the industry, please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll let other agents and suppliers see it too.
Firstly today there’s an offer by high-profile free to list portal Residential People, which is allowing agents to enjoy all its premium features and advertising for free whilst the pandemic is ongoing – additionally, existing customers will have their contracts extended.
Residential People’s ‘featured property’ listing offers agents the ability to exclusively advertise within a desired location, and gives them access to an online marketing suite. You can see more here.
“The Coronavirus has had a drastic impact on the livelihood of estate agents and businesses across the UK” says Residential People sales and managing director, Roy Bartolo.
Now news of a survey by the lettings trade body the Residential Landlords Association; it’s asking members a series of question on the impact of Coronavirus.
There’s been a strong response so far, so if other RLA members want to participate – and it’ll take just a few minutes – you can click here.
Now an idea put forward by London agent Kristjan Byfield, who is urging agents to undertake regular live events online where they can share their knowledge and experience.
He’s called in the #AgentsHereToHelp initiative and hopes the idea will lift agents’ spirits during the crisis as well as share ideas.
Some 20 agents have already signed up including David Lee, Keller Williams, Fine & Country*, Roseberry Newhouse, Danelaw Real Estate, Maurice Kilbride, NestledIn, Normie & Co, Jackie Oliver & Co, McDowalls, Mr Green, Ferndown, Robinson Michael & Jackson, Logic Estates, GoView, Dreamview, Stones and Belvoir, as aeell as Kristjan’s own agency base property specialists.
He wants to launch this campaign in the next week and has set up a registration form for agents to complete – you can see it here.
Two auctions held behind closed doors have been deemed a success, and evidence that the property market can still function despite the lockdown.
Savills has held its first ever remote-bidding-only auction, run by a single auctioneer supported by almost 30 staff working remotely connected using technology.
Over the course of the day it raised over £18m and successfully sold 67 per cent of the lots – taking 3,000 remote bids.
The company – which has its next auction on Wednesday May 6 – will supply an increased number of photographs alongside a virtual tour and floorplan for all lots.
Meanwhile SDL Graham Penny’s 100th Derby auction, and the first in its history to be held behind closed doors, was a success according to auctioneer Andrew Parker.
The firm says that for the 500 viewers watching on the internet, very little looked different – and the bids came in as thick and fast.
With over 120 pre-registered remote bidders, buyers placed their bids on the telephone, by proxy and over the internet, and more than £2.6m was raised for sellers.
“It was not the 100th auction celebration we had planned but we were delighted to have such great support from our remote bidders. I missed seeing everyone at the auction but it was wonderful to know they were out there, watching from the safety of their own homes” says Parker.
“We have proved that, despite the current social distancing rules, it is possible to keep the property industry moving – and that buyers are showing just as much interest in our properties as before.”