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Real estate agents fined for price fixing

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/12/2016

Four major New Zealand real estate companies have been ordered to pay $9.825 million in fines for price fixing.

The High Court of Auckland ruled on Friday Barfoot and Thompson, Harcourts, LJ Hooker and Ray White had breached the Commerce Act for organising an industry-wide response to a change in fees by dominant online property listing company Trade Me.

Senior staff from the companies agreed to pass Trade Me's increase in costs onto their vendors, the Commerce Commission, which brought the proceedings, said.

It said the agreement was brokered at a board meeting of a company called Property Page, which was owned by the four real estate agents along with agency Bayleys.

The commission said Property Page in turn had a 50 per cent stake in a Trade Me competitor called

"As national competitors with significant influence across the country, it was vital that each agency made its own decision on how it responded to Trade Me," Commerce Commission chairman Dr Mark Berry said.

"Instead, the defendants agreed that they would each pass on the increased costs to vendors.

"This agreement removed the risk of the agencies competing in relation to the Trade Me charges."

Under Friday's ruling, Barfoot and Thompson and Harcourts will each pay $2.575m, LJ Hooker $2.475m and Ray White $2.2m.

The judgement comes after the Commerce Commission filed proceedings against 13 national and regional real estate companies in December 2015 over their response to Trade Me's fee change.

Two Manawatu real estate agencies have also been fined in relation to Trade Me's fee changes.

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