Real estate agency Unique Realty ordered to pay $1.25 mln
Real estate agency Unique Realty ordered to pay $1.25 mln over price-fixing
By Paul McBeth
May 20 (BusinessDesk) - Manawatu real estate agency Unique Realty has been ordered to pay $1.25 million by the High Court in Auckland for fixing prices in the first of 13 agencies set to appear in court over the ring.
Justice Geoffrey Venning ordered the penalty in the High Court today after Unique reached a settlement with the Commerce Commission, admitting it breached the Commerce Act by fixing prices, the regulator said in a statement. The commission filed proceedings against the realtors in December, saying the firms fixed prices in 2013 and 2014 in response to Trade Me changing from a monthly subscription fee to a per-listing fee for properties advertised for sale among national, Hamilton and Manawatu agencies.
"The fact of not having a listing on Trade Me may have led to a lower number of 'buyer eyes' or interest in their particular property," Justice Venning said in his judgment. "It might have meant they have missed out on potential purchasers and ultimately a potentially higher price for sale."
The commission says the industry broke the law in coordinating their response to the Trade Me listing fees by agreeing vendors would have to pay the site's listing fee if the property was advertised on Trade Me.
The regulator cut deals with Unique, Bayley Corp and Hamilton-based Success Realty, and today's was the first penalty hearing to be held. None of the other defendants - Monarch Real Estate (trading as Harcourts), Lodge Real Estate (Hamilton), Lugton’s, Online Realty (trading as Ray White), Property Brokers, Manawatu 1994 (trading as LJ Hooker), Barfoot and Thompson, Harcourts Group, LJ Hooker New Zealand, Ray White Real Estate - have settled.
A number of other agencies were warned by the regulator, including Coast to Coast (trading as Bayleys), Alrose (trading as REMAX Palmerston North), Rural and Lifestyle Sales.com, Real Estate House Manawatu (trading as Ray White), Harcourts Team Manawatu Realty, Watson Real Estate, PGG Wrightson Real Estate and Monty’s Real Estate.