Following an investigation into suspected cartel conduct, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) found that Hertfordshire-based firms Associated Lead Mills Ltd and HJ Enthoven Ltd (trading as BLM British Lead) had broken the law by entering into anticompetitive arrangements.
Both firms admitted their roles in the illegal cartel earlier this year and now face fines of £1.5m and £8m respectively.
Previously, the CMA had provisionally found that a third company, Calder Industrial Materials Ltd, had become involved at a later stage in one of the arrangements, but the CMA has now determined that there are no grounds for action against this firm. The CMA has therefore closed its investigation into this company.
The CMA’s findings follow a thorough review of the evidence, including the written and oral representations submitted by the businesses.
Associated Lead Mills and BLM British Lead are two of the largest players in the market for rolled lead roofing sheets.
The anticompetitive arrangements took place between October 2015 and April 2017 and included colluding on prices, sharing the rolled lead market by arranging not to target certain customers, and arranging not to supply a new business because it risked disrupting the firms’ existing customer relationships. Each of the arrangements also included exchanges of commercially sensitive information.
The CMA said that the fines would have been higher had the two companies not admitted their involvement in cartel activity. Parties under investigation may enter into 'settlement' if they are prepared to admit that they have breached competition law and are willing to agree to a streamlined administrative procedure for the remainder of the investigation.
Michael Grenfell, executive director of enforcement at the CMA, said: “These companies knowingly entered into illegal arrangements restricting competition between them. Such anticompetitive arrangements tend to inflate prices and cheat customers out of a fair deal. The CMA does not tolerate such behaviour.
“Construction is a sector firmly under our spotlight and if businesses break the law by entering into anticompetitive arrangements, they run the risk of large fines.”
Both Associated Lead Mills and BLM British Lead are supplier members of the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, which said it would now hold its own investigation into the affair.
NFRC chief executive James Talman said: “NFRC stands for roofing excellence and in no way tolerates anti-competitive practices amongst its membership. Now the CMA has made its final judgement, and all the evidence is available to us, we will refer this case to our risk committee to consider the behaviour of the two members involved, in light of our code of practice.”