OFT sues nine concrete firms

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The Independent Online
THE Office of Fair Trading yesterday issued proceedings for contempt of court against nine ready-mixed concrete companies, including four subsidiaries of RMC and one from Tarmac, writes Tom Stevenson.

The OFT alleges that they breached court orders by operating a series of price-fixing and market-sharing cartels between 1978 and 1988. Sir Bryan Carsberg, OFT director-general, said: 'We have amassed a substantial amount of evidence to suggest flagrant and widespread breaches of competition law.'

He added that the illegal agreements came to an end only after it became widely known in the industry that the OFT was conducting an investigation.

One industry analyst said it was common in the 1980s for supposedly competing salesmen to meet socially in pubs to divide up and agree prices for sales to local construction jobs. Because of the bulky nature of ready-mixed concrete, deliveries are rarely more than about 15 miles from manufacturing sites, making local knowledge and contacts crucial.

RMC said it had issued compliance instructions to all its staff since 1978. Its booklet, revised in 1988 and used in company training, had been described in a Court of Appeal hearing last year as 'an impressive catalogue of education and exhortation'.