Connaught fined �5m for rigged bids

A NATIONAL firm which was founded in Sidmouth has been fined more than �5 million for rigging bids on building contracts. Connaught Partnerships together with its ultimate parent company Connaught plc will have to pay out �5,568,868 after the Officer of F

A NATIONAL firm which was founded in Sidmouth has been fined more than �5 million for rigging bids on building contracts.

Connaught Partnerships together with its ultimate parent company Connaught plc will have to pay out �5,568,868 after the Officer of Fair Trading (OFT) found it had engaged in illegal rigging.

The business, now based in Exeter, was founded by Bill Tincknell in 1982 as a concrete repair specialist based in the town and traded under the name of Connaught Southern.

It changed hands in 1996 when Mr Tincknell's son, Mark, aquired it and it now operates in the social housing, public sector and compliance markets.

The OFT found Connaught was involved in cover pricing- where one or more bidders in a tender process obtains an artificially high price from a competitor- on a �1,700, 000 contract in relation to the refurbishment of flats in Doncaster.

In total the watchdog found 103 constructions firms in England had 'engaged in illegal anti-competitive bid-rigging' on 199 tenders between 2000 and 2006.

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The OFT has imposed fines of �129.5 million on the firms following one of the OFT's largest Competition Act investigations.

It was found that the infringements affected building projects across Engalnd worth in excess of �200 million.

Simon Williams, the OFT's Senior Director for this case, said: "Our investigation has uncovered significant infringements of competition law on nearly 200 projects across England.

"Bidding processes designed to ensure clients and in many cases taxpayers receive the best possible choice and price were distorted, creating a real risk of increased prices. "This decision sends a strong message that anti-competitive and illegal practices, including cover pricing, must cease.

"The OFT welcomes initiatives by the leadership of the construction industry to add weight to that message through a clear compliance code which we hope will help to embed more fully a culture of competition within the construction sector.

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