Commerce Commission to appeal High Court decision on price-fixing case
By Rebecca Howard
Nov. 24 (BusinessDesk) - The Commerce Commission will file a notice of appeal against the High Court's decision to dismiss its case against two real estate agencies and their directors in a nationwide price fixing case.
The group of realtors allegedly agreed to pass on increased Trade Me Group fees for property listings as part of a response to the auction site's increasing dominance in the market. The High Court dismissed the case against Lodge and its director Jeremy O’Rourke, and Monarch- trading as Harcourts Hamilton - and its director Brian King. The commission alleged they were part of the anti-competitive price fixing agreement.
According to the High Court's judgment, the arrangement or understanding between the defendants did not have the purpose or effect of fixing, controlling, or maintaining the price for, or any discount, allowance, rebate, or credit in relation to, real estate sales or advertising services supplied by the defendants.
The High Court judgment, however, "raises significant legal issues that merit an appeal in this case," said commission chair Mark Berry in a statement. The notice of appeal will be filed in the Court of Appeal in Wellington.
In 2015, the commission filed proceedings in the High Court at Auckland 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. Most of the real estate firms admitted breaching the Commerce Act and have settled with the commission. The courts have imposed around $20 million in penalties so far.