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OFT admits firms 'may be innocent'

The Office of Fair Trading has admitted that firms named today following its investigation into the industry may be innocent.

112 firms have been identified this morning as those that the OFT believes are guilty of colluding to rig bids for contracts.

Among those firms named are industry heavyweights Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Kier and Morgan Ashurst, as well as a host of smaller regional contractors.

The competition watchdog today published a private statement of objections that was sent out to each of the firms to say what the OFT was accusing them off.

The industry had campaigned for this to be the limit of the release of the names of firms until it had been decided whether each company was guilty of the charges of not.

Firms had been concerned about their reputations being damaged despite them doing nothing wrong.

But the OFT has blown out these hopes, instead launching a massive publicity blitz that at one point caused its website to crash due to the amount of traffic it was receiving.

“We are alleging certain practices but I wouldn’t say we are assuming guilt. It is up to the firms to respond to the allegations. The press release is very clear that we are not saying the firms are guilty,” said an OFT spokesman.