Two concrete firms have admitted to operating an illegal cartel for almost seven years, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has revealed.
Provisional findings from the CMA allege that three concrete drainage product manufacturers broke competition law by co-ordinating prices for customers and sharing the market.
Derbyshire-based Stanton Bonna Concrete and CPM Group from Somerset have admitted breaking competition law by taking part in the cartel, according to the CMA.
As part of a settlement process, the two companies have agreed to pay fines that will be determined at the end of the CMA’s overall investigation.
The regulator said that the third company – Northern Ireland-based FP McCann (FPM) – was also under investigation and had not made any admissions.
FPM is not part of any settlement and the CMA stressed that at this stage of the investigation, no assumption could be made that it had broken the law.
The authority claims that from 2006, regular secret meetings were held to set up and operate an illegal cartel.
The accusation is that the purpose of the meetings were to fix or co-ordinate prices and share out the market for certain precast concrete drainage products in the UK.
This, the CMA alleges, was done with the intention of increasing prices and reducing competition.
The authority said the companies accounted for more than half of the market during the period the alleged cartel was taking place, rising to 90 per cent of the market from 2010 onwards.
CMA executive director of enforcement Michael Grenfell said: “We’ve provisionally found that these three firms secretly shared out the market and colluded on prices for construction products used in many building projects across Great Britain.
“The CMA does not tolerate such practices and will use our enforcement tools to crack down on those it believes are taking part in illegal cartels.”
In February, the body reported a 30 per cent rise in the number of people coming forward to report suspected cartel behaviour.