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Fines for real estate price fixing

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 1/07/2016 Jonathan Underhill
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Bayleys Corp and Hamilton-based Success Realty have been ordered to pay penalties of $2.2 million and $900,000 respectively in the second and third of 13 High Court appearances by national and regional real estate agencies for price fixing.

The proceedings relate to three separate alleged price fixing and anti-competitive agreements among national real estate agencies, Hamilton real estate agencies and Manawatu real estate agencies in response to TradeMe changing its fees for listing properties for sale on its website.

Manawatu real estate agency Unique Realty was the first to appear, in May, and was ordered to pay $1.25 million.

The Commerce Commission cut deals with Unique, Bayleys and Success and their cooperation was noted by Justice Patricia Courtney.

But she also acknowledged, in her ruling on Bayleys, the seriousness of the conduct and its potential to affect a large number of transactions for residential properties.

Each admitted its conduct breached the prohibition on price fixing in the Commerce Act.

The commission said cases against the remaining 10 agencies, Property Page and three individuals remain before the court.

The proceedings alleged that the defendants breached the Commerce Act by agreeing a planned industry response when TradeMe changed from a monthly subscription fee to a per-listing fee for properties advertised for sale on its website.

The commission alleged the parties agreed that vendors would have to pay the listing fee to have their property advertised on TradeMe, and that the agencies would not commit to any preferential or discounted listing fees with TradeMe.

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