CMA prolongs the agony…again

If the Competition and Markets Authority investigation into bid-rigging and price covering within the UK demolition industry has taught us anything, it is that the CMA views deadlines as a movable feast.

Ever since the investigation began back in March 2019, the CMA has promised further updates on no less than six separate occasions. And with the demolition sector hoping for another (and possibly final) update this month, it has done so again.

According to the latest update from the CMA, the next update is now expected in January 2023.

The latest update goes on to say:

On 23 June 2022, the CMA issued a statement of objections provisionally finding that 10 suppliers of demolition and removal of asbestos services breached competition law by taking part in bid rigging, in the form of cover bidding.

The statement is addressed to Brown and Mason Group Limited (as economic successor to the company directly involved in the infringement, Brown and Mason Limited; Cantillon Limited and its parent company, Cantillon Holdings Limited; Clifford Devlin Limited; DSM Demolition Limited and its parent companies, DSM SFG Group Holdings Limited Nobel Midco Limited and Nobel Topco Limited; Erith Contractors Limited and its parent company Erith Holdings Limited; John F Hunt Limited and its parent company John F Hunt Group Limited; Keltbray Limited and Keltbray Holdings Limited (as economic successor to Keltbray’s parent company Keltbray Group (Holdings) Limited); McGee Group (Holdings) Limited and its parent company MFCOIL Limited; T. E. Scudder Limited, P.J. Carey Plant Hire (Oval) Limited and Scudder’s parent company, Carey Group Limited; and Squibb Group Limited.

Eight of the firms – Brown and Mason; Cantillon; Clifford Devlin; DSM; John F Hunt; Keltbray; McGee and Scudder – have admitted their participation in the alleged bid rigging and agreed to pay fines under the CMA’s settlement policy.

Provided they comply with the terms of the settlement, any fines of the settling firms will be discounted to reflect the resource savings to the CMA generated by the firms’ admissions and their cooperation with the CMA’s investigation. The final level of any fines will be decided by a new case decision group, in accordance with the CMA’s administrative process.

Scudder and McGee also reported their involvement in the conduct under the CMA’s leniency policy and will also benefit from a leniency discount on any fines, provided they continue to co-operate and comply with the other conditions of the CMA’s leniency policy.

The CMA’s investigation into two further companies – Erith Contractors Limited and Squibb Group Limited – continues and no assumption should be made that they have infringed the law.

It remains to be seen if the next update in January 2023 finally draws a line under the CMA investigation or whether there will be a further prolonging of the agony.

However, it now appears that the fallout from the investigation that has named only National Federation of Demolition Contractors’ member companies will now land squarely (and unfairly) in the lap of president-elect John Lynch.