REPORTS OF higher cartel activity have prompted the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to step up investigations in the construction industry.
The OFT last week highlighted construction as one of five areas for particular attention in 2005. Others included credit markets, healthcare, public procurement and mass marketed scams.
It said that its cartels division was becoming increasingly active in construction.
Last year the OFT successfully prosecuted roofing contractors in the West Midlands, after discovering a price fixing ring.
'Construction and housing markets including services relating to them form a significant part of the workload of the cartels branch, ' says the OFT's draft annual plan.
'They are of prime importance in many large public procurement exercises.
We continue to receive many complaints from consumers and we believe there is great scope for improving trading practices in this sector.'
In October a report commissioned for the OFT warned that small firms could face discrimination when competing for public sector work because tender costs were so high (NCE 21 October).