Posts tagged 'OFT'

Revisiting the estate agents, a tax on all your houses

The Office of Fair Trading is still considering the results of its consultation on the UK lettings market, and the results aren’t expected until after it joins with the Competition Commission to become the mighty morphing power regulator known as the Competition and Markets Authority on April 1.

In the meantime, however, the Home Owners Alliance has published an investigation into what it calls “the murky world of estate agents fees and contracts”, looking at the sales side of the market.

What it found reflects some of the problems with pricing and transparency we have considered previously, problems that may eat into profits if stopped, and could leave estate agents open to civil claims. Read more

Double Foxtons

How many estate agents can the capital handle? We wonder because it turns out that Foxton’s plans to double in size, again, all while remaining well inside the M25.

We noticed this part of the plan after Credit Suisse published its thoughts on our post that several standard estate agent practices might be illegal and in the sights of the Office of Fair Trading. (Spoiler: turns out it is actually good for Foxtons and Countrywide). Read more

And then they came for the estate agents [Update]

Foxton’s made some changes to its award wining website this weekend. It may be coincidence, but they came after we asked the company about the ideas of a private investor who blogs under the name Anja Liszt.

We had thought that sellers of estate agency businesses were taking advantage of rising valuations and a nascent property boom, but the anonymous investor has another theoryRead more

How to dodge the money laundering police

Buy UK property, we suspect.

When it comes to money laundering, the estate agency sector in the UK is regulated by the Office of Fair Trading. Here’s the guidance that Britain’s 7,000 plus agents are supposed to adhere to. Click to read: Read more

Introducing Vanquis Bank (and an apology)

We’re fascinated by Provident Financial, the doorstep lender to low-income households, and its credit card business Vanquis Bank.

Earlier this week, the company hosted an investor day for this fast-growing business, which drip-feeds credit to people with poor repayment histories. The presentation slides are available on the Provident Financial website. Read more

UK watchdog eyes ‘Big Four’ auditors

The UK’s Office of Fair Trading has warned that competition concerns over the UK audit market are serious enough to warrant potential regulatory intervention after a decade of monitoring, reports the FT. But the competition watchdog said UK regulators might require international support – an admission that boosts the significance of a parallel investigation of the audit market by the European Commission. PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and Ernst & Young do the vast majority of auditing for top UK-listed companies, vetting the accounts of all but one of the FTSE 100. The concentration is only slightly less pronounced among mid-cap companies. The OFT has been eyeing the Big Four firms since 2002 and was recently asked to assess the market formally by the government and a House of Lords committee.

Snap news

Breaking pre-market news on Thursday,

– Glencore to raise $9bn-$11bn in London IPO — statementRead more

HBOS remembered

We said earlier on Monday that only one bank came off badly in the interim report from the Independent Commission on Banking.

We were wrong. Read more

Snap news

Breaking pre-market news on Thursday,

– OFT will not refer equity underwriting market to the Competition Commission for investigation — statementRead more

All we are saying, is give Murdoch a chance


Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, has decided to bend over backwards to help News Corporation win control of BSkyB. Read more

OFT faces merger in ‘quangos bonfire’

Britain’s competition regime is to be revamped in a shake-up under which the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission will merge, the FT reports. The restructuring of the competition bodies, to reduce costs and speed up investigations, will probably be one of the most contentious cuts to public bodies to be announced on Thursday in the government’s “bonfire of the quangos”. The government’s plan to merge the OFT and the commission rolls back the long-standing two-tier competition system, reinforced by the Labour government, in favour of the single-body model favoured by many other industrialised countries. The new body will probe mergers, market dominance and cartels, but it and other competition bodies will probably farm out many consumer functions to Citizens Advice and local trading standards officers.

Osborne to warn banks

George Osborne will use the UK chancellor’s annual Mansion House speech to send a tough message to big banks, reports the FT. Osborne will confirm his plans to impose a bank levy, amid pressure from his Liberal-Democrat coalition partners to raise a substantial amount from the tax in next week’s Budget . The chancellor has also approached Sir John Vickers, former head of the Office of Fair Trading, to lead a review into whether big banks should be forced to split their retail and investment banking arms.

Investment banks face UK underwriting probe

Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan will join banks under scrutiny in an investigation by Britain’s antitrust agency into equity underwriting practices, Bloomberg reports. The probe, which will begin later this year, was sparked by companies’ complaints that the size of charges has spiralled, the FT adds.

RBS fined £28m for sharing data

Royal Bank of Scotland was fined £28.6m on Tuesday for breaking competition law in the first big case brought against a financial services company, potentially exposing the part-nationalised bank to lawsuits from clients. RBS admitted staff involved in making loans to big law and accounting firms had illegally given pricing data to counterparts at Barclays, which escaped being penalised because it voluntarily disclosed its part in the affair to the Office of Fair Trading.

OFT IB fees probe set to alarm City

Investment banks are facing an imminent inquiry into the fees they charge clients, the chairman of the Office of Fair Trading signalled on Thursday in comments likely to provoke alarm in the City. Philip Collins, chairman of the competition watchdog, told a high-profile meeting of politicians and banking figures that the OFT was only months away from launching an investigation into the sector’s fees.

Shareholder activism – Mike Ashley style (updated)

You have to admire the chuzpah of the Sports Direct owner — he’s the one on the right by the way. Read more

Call off the search, Sports Direct edition

It’s over.

After a two and half year search, the UK’s biggest sports retailer has finally found someone brave enough to take on the job of chairman. Read more

Snap news

Breaking pre-market news on Thursday,

– National Express board plans cash call before end of the year, continues to evaluate Stagecoach offer – statementRead more

Time for another Toxic Pub Co investigation

That’s the conclusion of the House of Commons Business & Enterprise Committee report on pub companies published on Wednesday morning.

MP’s on the committee are of the opinion that abuse of the tenant occurs under the “tied” business model and they want something done about it. Read more