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16Aug91 UK: MANCHESTER COUNCIL SET TO SUE GLASS PRICE-FIXERS.

Manchester City council is poised to sue glass suppliers which took part in a price-fixing cartel for compensation.This would be the first case of its kind, and if other councils join in claims could run into millions of pounds.At least two other metropolitan councils have reported losses apparently arising from cartels and could join any legal action.Manchester thinks its works department lost some £129,000 over a three-year period up to 1989 as a result of artificially high prices being fixed by suppliers.It also lost out because private contractors working for the council would have paid the same higher prices for glass.Direct works chair Cllr Ken Barnes said: 'If it is shown that the people of Manchester have been exploited by the private sector then we will go to whatever lengths are necessary in order to make good the losses.'Manchester is still making detailed estimates of losses. Councillors are angry that money was wasted from repair and maintenance budgets which are very tight.The Office of Fair Trading is encouraging local authorities to sue firms which belonged to cartels for compensation under the 1976 Restrictive Trade Practices Act.This allows actions even against first offenders, but has rarely been used.The OFT thinks only a few successful actions would be needed for it to become a major deterrent to would-be cartels.The Association of Metropolitan Authorities is collective evidence of losses from all 67 of its members which appear to result from the activities of the cartels busted by the OFT.These are in glass, rebar, steel purlins and ready-mixed concrete markets.The AMA believes it will be easy for councils to go back through their records to spot unusual price movements before and after the cartels ended.