The Office of Fair Trading is to refer the aggregates, cement and ready-mix concrete markets for investigation by the Competition Commission.
According to Building magazine, the OFT said it had “reasonable grounds for suspecting” that “structural features of these markets” were “preventing, restricting or distorting competition”. It had been consulting with the industry throughout the autumn.
However, it is making exempt the markets in Northern Ireland from the probe.
It said the fact that five major players make up the bulk of the market, are vertically integrated, and the size of barriers to entry in to the market, all have the potential to distort competition.
The OFT said that the long-term effect could be higher prices for aggregates, cement and ready-mix concrete.
The Competition Commission is already examining the proposed merger between French company Lafarge and Tarmac parent Anglo American.