OFT probe could split Government

The Government is facing the potential embarrassment of having one of its departments investigate another if allegations of unfair trading by the Environment Agency lead to an OFT investigation.

Environmental search service company Sitescope, and its legal adviser Herbert Smith, lodged an official complaint with the OFT on 24 December. A decision on whether or not a full investigation will take place is imminent.

The complaint relates to the Environment Agency's decision in April to launch its own property search service, simultaneously raising charges to competitive services which buy certain information from the agency.

“This will restrict competition and will force up prices to end users [largely conveyancing lawyers],” said Sitescope director Dan Re'em.