Demands that the Office of Fair Trading account for its supine leniency agreement with Peverel over the price-fixing scandal have now reached the attention of the prime minister.
Number 10 is suggesting the issue be examined by a minister of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Sir Peter Bottomley, backed by Cabinet minister Ed Davey, is insisting on the involvement of the Ministry of Justice and the Housing minister.
Sir Peter has also made clear that he does not accept that the OFT were only aware of the price-fixing scam run by Cirrus when alerted by Peverel in December 2009.
This argument by the OFT is particularly feeble as the Times newspaper reported the bogus tendering process in detail on December 4 2009.
Ed Davey can also demonstrate that he alerted the OFT to Peverel’s cartel operations before December 2009.
A significant number of MPs and ministers are now aware of the Peverel price-fixing scandal.
Carlex readers are urged to contact their MP to insist that the OFT now account for their extraordinary leniency deal with Peverel in a meeting with Justice and Housing.
Copy all correspondence to Sir Peter Bottomley: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is the letter sent by Sebastian O’Kelly to David Cameron, alerting him to this issue:
July 12 2013
OFT offers “leniency” to Peverel in three-year investigation reported by Carlex whistleblowers, even though there has been “possible criminal behaviour involving Peverel” (Sir Peter Bottomley)
Dear Mr Cameron,
I write to ask whether you will advise the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Communities and Local Government to hold a joint briefing on this scandal in retirement housing.
The Office of Fair Trading is accusing the property management company Peverel of running a price-fixing scam over door-entry and warden call systems. Bogus tendering against stooge companies (which have now folded) resulted in contracts at inflated prices being awarded to Peverel’s own subsidiary, Cirrus.
The scam operated between 2005-2009, the OFT claims. It is giving Peverel the benefit of its “leniency policy” and immunity from its sanctions because it turned itself in to the OFT in December 2009.
This is outrageous. Sir Peter Bottomley believes that there was “possible criminal behaviour involving Peverel” and has stated that he does not believe Peverel contacted the OFT before these issues were already raised by Carlex members.
In November 2009 more than 100 Carlex pensioners attended a meeting at the Palace of Westminster, organized by Ed Davey, and there was extensive media coverage. This included articles in The Times on September 26, November 7 and December 5 (the latter specifically relating to the bogus tendering of Cirrus and providing examples: each development may have been scammed £20,000 in this process).
In addition, one of the three Carlex whistleblowers contacted the Serious Fraud Office via email on December 16 2009 providing a dossier of evidence.
The OFT had been inundated with complaints regarding retirement leasehold, although the whistleblowers contacted the OFT in January 2010 with their detailed complaint about Cirrus.
They have been assisting this absurdly protracted investigation, which they were asked to keep confidential, until the OFT made it public last Friday.
Understandably, they feel utterly suckered by the OFT now offering immunity to Peverel for its actions on the grounds that it contacted the OFT a matter of weeks before they reported it in detail.
Why on earth should Peverel be dealt with leniently by the OFT for cheating pensioners who – thanks to the opportunities of leasehold and the authorities’ torpor – are such easy prey?
Shouldn’t Mr Prisk (your housing minister) be concerned that the retirement housing market is virtually static (thank goodness, in our view, given the endemic cheating)?
Retirement leasehold values are 40-50 per cent off peak and only 1,600 flats were built last year (according to McCarthy and Stone).
Pensioners in retirement leasehold have largely lost confidence in civil society’s willingness – or capacity – to do anything about these issues.
You are aware of some of this from your own involvement in Windrush Court in Burford.
Three million people in this country live in leasehold flats. A significant number are being systematically ripped off.
When a serious, well documented complaint by articulate professionals is made to the authorities, the complainants are then betrayed by the OFT which – after three years! – cooks up a leniency deal with the perpetrators of these rip-offs.
These scandals, which have stalled an important sector of the housing market, require your attention.