commission rates

PHOTO: The four firms conspired to set minimum commission rates in Wokingham, Winnersh, Crowthorne, Bracknell and Warfield. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA

Competition watchdog exposes three firms who colluded for years prompting fears of cartels operating across UK

A ring of estate agency firms that colluded to fix commissions at high levels across Berkshire has been broken up and collectively fined more than £600,000.

The estate agents, which handled most property sales in Wokingham and other parts of Berkshire, conspired to keep commissions at rates understood to be above 1.8% on each house sale, and even set up a penalty system for agents who broke their rules.

The Competition and Markets Authority broke up the cartel after one of the agents, Romans in Wokingham, in south-west England, blew the whistle on the longstanding local practice.

A similar cartel was uncovered in Somerset two years ago, and the latest case will raise fears about the broader scale of price-fixing by estate agents across the UK.