Recruitment agency Hays may appeal OFT’s £30m price-fixing fine

Hays Specialist Recruitment is considering an appeal after being fined £30.4m for its part in a price-fixing cartel.

The recruitment agency was one of six fined £39.3m by the Office of Fair Trading for price fixing and the collective boycott of another company in the supply of candidates to the construction industry.

The OFT concluded that A Warwick Associates, Beresford Blake Thomas, CDI AndersElite, Eden Brown, Fusion People, Henry Recruitment, Hill McGlynn & Associates and Hays Specialist Recruitment all breached the Competition Act 1998.

The Hays Group is one of the UK’s leading recruitment consultancies, and includes Hays Human Resources, one of the leading players in the HR recruitment market. Its chief executive Alistair Cox argued that the level of the fine was unbalanced and said the group was considering appealing against the decision to the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

“The level of the fine is wholly disproportionate to the activities with which it relates, Hays’ involvement in those activities, and the way in which the OFT has dealt with other cases in the past,” he said in a statement. “The group is actively considering an appeal.”

Cox also reiterated that the OFT’s investigation related to an “isolated matter arising from the conduct of a single employee” who was no longer with the company and affected only a small part of its UK construction and property business.

CDI AndersElite, which received a £7.6m fine, said it was also considering an appeal. Its statement read: “Since becoming aware of these alleged violations, CDI has increased its focus on its compliance programme throughout all business units to ensure that ethical business practices remain at the core of all company conduct.”

Beresford Blake Thomas and Hill McGlynn & Associates were granted immunity from fines as they were part of the corporate group which first provided the OFT with evidence of this cartel activity.

Suzanne Rab, European and UK antitrust law expert at law firm Hogan & Hartson, said the levels of the fines were relatively small owing to the size of the companies involved. “By coming forward to provide information to expose a cartel and assist the authorities, a company can reduce or even avoid punishment and the OFT obviously wants to encourage this,” she added.

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