The Commerce Commission has warned a Christchurch pipeline maintenance firm over attempted price-fixing after a Fletcher Building unit blew the whistle on two former staffers who shared pricing with a rival.
Quik-Shot Limited and its director, Raad Al-Karbouli, have been issued formal warnings for trying to fix prices relating to pipe rehabilitation services in Christchurch, the Commerce Commission said in a statement.
"Taking into account the lack of harm caused by Quik-Shot's unsuccessful bid and the limited duration of the anti-competitive conduct, we considered a formal warning was sufficient in this instance. However, this case is a useful reminder to businesses to maintain strict oversight of their tender and pricing processes and avoid discussing pricing information with competitors," commission chair Mark Berry said.
The investigation was opened after Fletcher Construction raised concerns about the conduct of two now former employees of its subsidiary company Pipeworks. The investigation ultimately focused on quotes requested by a business seeking pipe rehabilitation services in November 2017.
According to the commission, the investigation found the Pipeworks employees had provided Al-Karbouli with the price Pipeworks would be submitting for the contract through WhatsApp, and recommended a price range that Quik-Shot should quote to win the work.
Al-Karbouli confirmed his receipt of this information and submitted a price for Quik-Shot within this range. These communications between competitors were unknown to the business and it ultimately awarded the contract to Pipeworks, the commission said.