Your commercial news round-up: Google, Wilko and B&M, house prices, RAAC in schools

updated on 07 September 2023

Reading time: three minutes

As temperatures rise in the UK this week and autumn is delayed, LawCareers.Net takes a look at what’s happening at Google, the latest with Wilko and B&M, house prices and interest rates, and the issue impacting hundreds of schools on the first week of the new academic year. Kickstart your commercial awareness with this week’s commercial news round-up.

  • Google is facing allegations that it’s breaking competition law in a UK legal claim that’s looking for around £7 billion in damages for UK consumers. Filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal, the claim accuses Google of using its dominant position in the search engine market to increase the fees paid by advertisers to appear on Google search pages – the knock-on effect being that consumers are then charged more for goods and services. Nikki Stopford, who filed the claim, describes it as a “clear breach of competition law, for which consumers are paying the price”. The claim also alleges that the tech giant has exploited its dominant market position by tying its search app with other services, according to CITY A.M.

In addition, the claim suggests that Google paying to be Apple’s default search engine on Apple devices is another indicator that it’s taking advantage of its position. Concerns over Google’s dominance in the mobile search advertising space have surfaced before and there’s currently an ongoing investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority into Google’s suspected anti-competitive conduct in advertising technology.

  • Moving to the high street, there’s an update on Wilko’s demise, as value retailer B&M agrees to buy 51 of its 400 stores in a deal worth £13 million. It follows B&M’s opening of 21 new stores in the previous financial year, with retail expert Catherine Shuttleworth pointing out that it could “create local jobs for Wilko colleagues in the newly owned stores”. It’s not yet been confirmed which stores B&M has purchased or how many jobs could be salvaged as a result of the deal. Having fallen into administration in August, Wilko’s stores continue to stay open, as the chain looks for a buyer to purchase a bigger portion of its stores. Wilko has also announced its first redundancies on Monday, including 269 jobs at its support centre in Worksop.
  • House prices fell at their fastest annual rate in 14 years in August, mortgage lender Halifax reports. Property values experienced a drop of 4.6% in the year to the end of August, with Halifax forecasting further falls for the rest of the year. Kim Kinnaird, the lender’s director of mortgages, said: "We may now be seeing a greater impact from higher mortgage costs flowing through to house prices.” Kinnaird added that the “market will continue to rebalance until it finds an equilibrium where buyers are comfortable with mortgage costs in a higher range than seen over the previous 15 years”.

    Meanwhile, the Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey gave an update on interest rates earlier this week. Bailey told MPs that rates are “much nearer” to the peak of rate rises, although hikes are still expected later this month.
  • Nearly 150 schools have been named by the government as containing reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) – a lightweight concrete commonly used in construction between the 1950s and mid-1990s. The government has warned that the concrete only lasts for around 30 to 40 years and is “liable to collapse with little or no notice”. Just days before the start of the new academic year, new guidance published by the Department for Education called for schools with RAAC to stop using affected buildings, “unless or until suitable mitigations are in place”. Of the 147 schools, 19 have delayed the start of term, with four transitioning to remote learning. Scotland has identified 35 schools affected by the issue, two schools in Wales have been closed and schools in Northern Ireland are currently being checked. The cost of fixing the issues in England is reportedly nearing £150 million, according to the Guardian, with concerns that the estimates could rise considerably still. If a collapse was to occur, local authorities could face huge payouts.

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