Five UK fit-out firms fined £7m for cartel behaviour; JLL was informant

After admitting breaking UK competition law, five office fit-out firms have agreed to pay fines totalling more than £7m.

They were ensnared by information given by property company JLL, which admitted the greatest number of breaches but avoided a fine under the CMA’s leniency programme.

Following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the companies – Fourfront, Loop, Coriolis, ThirdWay and Oakley – each admitted to breaking law at least once during the period of 2006-17.

Fourfront got the biggest fine, totalling more than £4m.

The firms, based in London and the Home Counties, admitted to participating in "cover bidding" in competitive tenders, colluding on the prices they would bid for contracts.

Cover bidding usually involves companies agreeing with each other to place higher bids intended to lose the contract.

In this case cover bids affected 14 contracts with a variety of customers, ranging from a City of London law firm to a further education college.

Fourfront admitted 10 instances of cover bidding, but JLL admitted 12, with 10 involving Bluu Solutions Limited and two involving Tetris-Bluu Limited.

The CMA’s Leniency Programme encourages people to come forward with information about their involvement in a cartel, in return for immunity or reductions in penalties.

"In this case, JLL brought information about the conduct to the CMA’s attention and, in accordance with the CMA’s Leniency Programme, will therefore not receive a fine," CMA said in an announcement today.

The firm Loop gets a 25% discount on its fine for cooperating with the CMA.

  • Fourfront has agreed to pay £4,143,304
  • Loop has agreed to pay £1,090,816
  • Coriolis has agreed to pay £7,735
  • ThirdWay has agreed to pay £1,780,703
  • Oakley has agreed to pay £58,558

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s Chief Executive, said: "The CMA is concerned it is seeing a lot of evidence of anti-competitive conduct in the construction industry, and we have already taken a number of cases in this sector. Today’s fines reinforce the message that the CMA will not tolerate competition law being broken."

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