OFFICE of Fair Trading investigators are probing the demolition sector following a series of raids on a number of high-profile contractors.
Construction News can reveal that Wakefield-based Controlled Demolition, Manchester's KDC Contractors and London-based Brown & Mason are among the specialists who have been paid visits.Other leading demolition firms are also believed to have been swooped on by OFT officials.
The raid left Controlled Demolition managing director Darren Palin bemused. He said: 'We were very surprised when they turned up but gave them full access to whatever they wanted.
'A number of them just arrived at our door and asked to go through our files - they didn't say what they were looking for.
'It is always a concern when something like this happens but we don't expect anything to come of it.
'We are not guilty of anything and I can only assume that they are looking at demolition as part of their construction crackdown and we happen to be one of the highest profile firms in the sector.'
OFT officials have highlighted construction as one of five priority areas it will be concentrating resources on this year.
An OFT spokeswoman confirmed the raids and added: 'We can't say anything more. Just because we have visited firms you can't assume guilt.'
Terry Brown, managing director of Brown & Mason, said: 'We have got nothing to hide.As far as I know they didn't find anything and they went away.
'They said we might never hear from them again.They looked around and we helped them.'
The six-strong team of investigators spent all day at the firm's offices.
Mr Brown said the raids could damage some firms' businesses and blamed an aggrieved rival for the tipoffs.
He added: 'This kind of thing can be very dangerous when we haven't done anything wrong. I think it's somebody putting the poison in, I really do.Maybe they can't get on a tender list and they turn around and say 'it's collusion'.'
A source at KDC said: 'I don't know why they visited us, a lot of our work is negotiated.We let them go through our records and they didn't take anything away.'
Roofers fixed prices
ANOTHER price-fixing ring in the roofing industry has been broken up with the Office of Fair Trading dishing out fines to five firms in Scotland.
The latest firms to be caught were all flat roofing contractors who were found to have operated a cartel in central Scotland.
OFT investigators discovered that six companies agreed to fix prices for contracts for felt and single ply flat roofing. Among the customers affected were banks, schools and hospitals.
The cartel's main whistleblower Paisley firm Pirie had its original £86,000 fine reduced to nil.
The five others - WG Walker, Advanced Roofing, Geo Brolly, Bonnington Contracts and McKay Roofing - were slapped with penalties totalling £138,000.
Pirie and WG Walker were among 10 firms fined earlier this year by the OFT after being part of ring caught fixing prices in the north-east and Scotland.
The OFT also broke up a third roofing cartel last spring when a nine-strong cartel was smashed in the West Midlands.