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Real estate agent fined $1.25m for fixing

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 29/11/2016

<span style="font-size:13px;">A Manawatu real estate agency that traded under the LJ Hooker banner has been ordered to pay $1.25 million for price fixing.</span> © AP A Manawatu real estate agency that traded under the LJ Hooker banner has been ordered to pay $1.25 million for price fixing. A second Manawatu real estate agency has been ordered to pay $1.25 million over price fixing.

Manawatu 1994, which traded under the LJ Hooker banner, has been handed the penalty at the High Court at Auckland as part of a settlement with the Commerce Commision.

The commerce watchdog is looking at alleged price-fixing practices at 13 companies including the head offices of Barfoot and Thompson, Harcourts, LJ Hooker, Ray White and Bayleys along with other agencies in Manawatu and Hamilton.

As part of that case, it alleges Manawatu companies between 2013 and 2014 agreed between themselves they would pass on the full cost of advertising a property on Trademe to vendors after the online auction site moved from monthly subscriptions to per-listing fees.

In a ruling released on Tuesday, Justice Murray Gilbert said price fixing was serious misconduct.

"The agreement involved at least 11 real estate agencies representing most of the relevant market in the region. The agreement therefore had the potential to affect a large number of consumers," he said.

But he said the agreement did not eliminate all price competition and had not been initiated by Manawatu 1994.

Another agency, Unique Realty Ltd, earlier this year became the first company to be penalised over the Manawatu deal - also receiving a $1.25 million fine.

The Commission's case against the other defendants in the Manawatu proceedings remains before the court, it said.

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