CMA in legal battle over cartel inquiry raids

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is seeking a judicial review after a tribunal refused warrants to raid homes as part of an investigation into suspected construction chemical cartel activity.

In a hearing on 13 and 14 March, the Administrative Court heard an application by the CMA for a judicial review against the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT). A judgment on the case was reserved, meaning it will be made in writing at a later time.

The CMA alleges it was beyond the scope of the CAT to refuse its application last December for a warrant to search domestic premises, Construction News understands.

A search warrant for domestic premises would allow the CMA to seek documents or information that may be contained on electronic devices in individuals’ homes. The CMA application comes after a sharp increase in home working after the Covid pandemic.

The competition regulator launched an investigation in October into unspecified companies and industry bodies over suspected anti-competitive behaviour relating to the supply of chemical admixtures and additives for use in concrete, cement, mortar and other related construction products.

The probe is being carried out in coordination with an investigation by the European Commission, which said it has carried out unannounced antitrust inspections at businesses operating in the construction chemicals sector in some of its member states.

The UK investigation is being carried out under the Competition Act 1998, which outlaws joint actions that aim to or result in the “prevention, restriction or distortion of competition”.

French company Saint-Gobain and Swiss company Sika previously confirmed to CN that they were cooperating with the investigation.

The initial investigation period, in which information is being gathered, analysed and reviewed, is due to complete by July 2024.

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