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Commerce Commission files proceedings against real estate agencies

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  • Commerce Commission files proceedings against real estate agencies





    The Commerce Commission says it has filed proceedings in the Auckland High Court for alleged price fixing and anti-competitive behaviour by 13 national and regional real estate agencies, a company owned by a number of national real estate agencies, and three individuals.The Commission says it has also issued warnings to an additional eight agencies for their role in the conduct.

    The proceedings relate to alleged conduct in 2013 and 2014 by the national head office of five major real estate companies, and separately by agencies in Hamilton and Manawatu.
    "The alleged conduct occurred in response to Trade Me's change from a monthly subscription fee to a per-listing fee for properties advertised for sale on its website," the Commission says.

    It says it has agreed settlements in principle involving admissions and payment of a Court-imposed penalty by two of the parties. The national real estate agencies which the Commission has filed proceedings against are the head office of Barfoot and Thompson Ltd, Harcourts Group Ltd, LJ Hooker New Zealand Ltd, Ray White (Real Estate) Ltd and Bayley Corporation.

    The proceedings allege that the defendants breached the Commerce Act by agreeing a planned industry response to Trade Me's changed pricing model. The Commission alleges the parties agreed that vendors would have to pay the listing fee to have their property advertised on Trade Me, and that the agencies would not commit to any preferential or discounted listing fees with Trade Me.


    The Commission also alleges that Property Page (NZ) Ltd aided and abetted the agencies in establishing and implementing the agreement. Property Page is an incorporated company owned by Harcourts, LJ Hooker, Ray White, Barfoot & Thompson and Bayleys, and owns 50% of property listing website realestate.co.nz, which is a competitor to Trade Me.

    The Commission says it has resolved a settlement in principle with Bayleys Corporation Ltd to resolve the proceeding against it. The settlement involves Bayleys making admissions that its conduct breached the Act and paying a penalty to be imposed by the Court.

    Settlements have not been agreed with any of the other defendants.The Commission says it has separately filed proceedings against real estate agencies and individuals in Hamilton and Manwatu.

    In Hamilton the Commission alleges that Monarch Real Estate Ltd (trading under the Harcourts banner), Lodge Real Estate (Hamilton) Ltd, Lugton's Limited, Online Realty Ltd (trading under the Ray White banner), Success Realty Ltd (trading under the Bayleys banner) and two individuals breached the Commerce Act by agreeing a planned regional response to Trade Me's changed pricing model. The individuals work for Monarch and Lodge.

    In Manawatu, the Commission has filed proceedings against Property Brokers Ltd, Manawatu 1994 Ltd (trading under the LJ Hooker banner), Unique Realty Ltd and one individual, alleging that they breached the Commerce Act by agreeing with each other and other agencies in Manawatu a planned regional response to Trade Me's changed pricing model. The individual works for Property Brokers.

    The Commission says it has agreed a settlement in principle with Unique Realty Ltd to resolve the proceeding against it. The settlement involves Unique making admissions that its conduct breached the Act, and paying a penalty to be imposed by the court. Settlements have not been agreed with any of the other defendants.

    The Commission says it also considers that a number of other Manawatu agencies are likely to have breached the Commerce Act. It has therefore issues warnings to Coast to Coast Ltd (trading under the Bayleys banner), Alrose Ltd (trading as RE/MAX Palmerston North), Rural and Lifestyle Sales.com Ltd, Real Estate House Manawatu Ltd (trading under the Ray White banner), Harcourts Team Manawatu Realty Ltd (trading under the Harcourts banner), Watson Real Estate Ltd, PGG Wrightson Real Estate Ltd, and Monty's Real Estate Ltd.


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