UK: Competition Regulator Sharpens Focus On Construction Sector

Last Updated: 6 June 2019
Article by Gordon Downie

The Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) Chief Executive, Andrea Coscelli raised concerns in April at "seeing a lot of evidence of anti-competitive conduct in the construction industry", adding the CMA had "already taken a number of cases in this sector...".

Recent enforcement action from the CMA, outlined below, suggests regulatory intervention is only likely to increase.

CMA's cover bidding penalty decision (design, construction and fit-out services market)

In a decision published on 12 April 2019, the CMA found six office fit-out firms had infringed competition law by engaging in cover bidding (agreed to submit bids intended to be unsuccessful, allowing another co-conspirator to win the contract) on service contracts covering the fit-out, design and refurbishment of commercial and non-residential premises. The cover bids spanned 14 contracts entered into with a variety of customers during the period 2006 to 2017. The firms colluded on the prices that they would bid for these contracts.

The CMA imposed fines totalling more than £7 million on five of the companies: Fourfront, Loop, Coriolis, ThirdWay and Oakley – following their admissions to having breached competition law. The sixth cartelists - JLL on behalf of Bluu, its subsidiary – was involved in 12 of the 14 contracts and led on seven of those contracts, but had approached the CMA with information on the cartel, agreed to co-operate with the CMA and applied for leniency through the CMA's Leniency Programme and therefore received 100% exemption.

The fines levied also represent a reduction in the full penalty amount, as the five firms admitted their respective infringements and agreed to follow an expedited procedure to resolve the case.

Three former directors of the fit-out firms have also been disqualified from holding directorships and from the management of any company based in Scotland, England and Wales: Robb Simms-Davies, formerly of Bluu Solutions for five years; Trevor Hall, formerly of Cube Interior Solutions for two-and-a-half years; and Oliver James Hammond, formerly of Area Sq for two years respectively.

Director bans: CPM Group Limited

On 26 April 2019, the CMA announced a further two director disqualifications relating to findings, this time against a cartel comprising three suppliers of pre-cast concrete drainage products – CPM Group Limited, FP McCann Limited and Stanton Bonna Concrete Limited – it issued on 13 December 2018. CPM and Stanton Bonna have agreed to pay fines; the investigation against FP McCann remains active.

Two former directors of CPM Group Limited – Philip Stacey and Robert Smillie – were given director disqualifications of seven-and-a-half years and six-and-a-half years respectively.

Provisional breach found by CMA in supply of groundworks products

The CMA is currently investigating three major suppliers of groundworks products to the construction industry – MGF (Trench Construction Systems) Limited, Vp plc and Mabey Hire Limited – in relation to suspected anti-competitive practices. The companies' behaviour came to light after Mabey brought the cartel to the CMA's attention and applied for leniency. Mabey will not be fined in accordance with the CMA's Leniency Programme, provided it continues to cooperate with the CMA's investigation.

The CMA provisionally found the three suppliers liable for their conduct – collusion to keep prices high – and on 9 April 2019 issued a statement of objections to all three companies. The CMA alleges these entities co-ordinated their commercial behaviour (in particular on pricing practices) with the aim of reducing competition on price, and with that strategic uncertainty, by sharing competitively sensitive information with respect to pricing and the supply of groundworks products in the UK.

Provisional breach found by CMA in roofing materials sector

On 27 March 2019, the CMA provisionally found three suppliers of rolled lead – Lead Mills Limited, Jamestown Metals Limited, H.J. Enthoven Limited and Calder Industrial Materials Limited – had breached competition law in respect of information exchange, market sharing and customer allocation.

These three companies account for about 90% of UK rolled lead roofing supplies, and are alleged to have entered into a cartel by colluding on prices, exchanging commercially sensitive information, refraining from targeting each other's customers and collectively refusing to supply another company whose business threatened to disrupt their market sharing arrangements. This investigation was initiated in 2017 and the CMA has now issued a statement of objections to the above named entities.

Investigation launched into the supply of construction services

The CMA announced on 21 March 2019 it is investigating a suspected breach of Chapter I of the Competition Act 1998 (anti-competitive agreements including cartels) relating to the supply of construction services in Great Britain.

The CMA has not given any further information about the nature of the anti-competitive practices under investigation, or the parties involved. It indicates a decision will be announced in September 2019 on whether or not to proceed with the investigation.

Health Warnings!

  • Construction Industry seen as being at a risk of cartels and anti-competitive practices: have a Compliance Program in place and adequately train the company representatives.
  • If know of illegal behaviour/breaches of law – consult legal and consider leniency because someone else will.
  • Make commercial decisions e.g. about pricing and strategy independently, without consulting competitors or other construction group companies.
  • Do not share any commercially sensitive information with competitors, and avoid it with third parties as far as is practical – consult legal when in doubt.
  • Think before you meet and discuss business information with any competitors.
  • Do not agree future pricing strategies or output, or share or allocate customers.
  • Do not take risks if you are in any doubt about whether the joint bid/information exchange infringes the competition rules – seek legal advice!
  • Do not enter into any agreement about bidding or other commercial strategies.

Shepherd and Wedderburn's competition law expertise

Competition enforcement, both through the competition authorities and through the courts, has risen significantly in recent years. The CMA and European competition authorities have demonstrated a willingness to expand the reach of competition law. New legislation also makes it easier to pursue actions in the regular courts for losses arising from breaches of competition law.

As a result, businesses can expect more intervention and exposure to competition law risks, regardless of size, location or sector. It also creates opportunities if your business or sector has been harmed by behaviour that breaches competition law.

We can help you meet those challenges, reduce your risk or seek damages or other remedies through the courts.

For example, we can help you identify and resolve any potential or suspected breaches. We can defend you against claims for damages and advise on the recovery of damages caused by suppliers, customers or competitors.

Our specialist, market-leading team works across the full range of competition law and regulatory regimes, and has a particular track record in mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, public offers, cartels, monopoly infringements, leniency applications, and in public procurement/state aid. We also offer full compliance and training programme support.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions