Commerce Commission accuses New Zealand real estate agencies of price fixing

By @pathakmishra on
View Of Auckland City From Sky Tower
A general view of Auckland City from atop the Sky Tower September 28, 2011. Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

New Zealand’s Commerce Commission will take 13 national and regional real estate agencies to court after accusing them of price fixing and incompetent behaviour.

The proceedings will take place in the High Court in Auckland. Three of the real estate companies are individual-owned while the others are owned by agencies. Around eight agencies among them have already been legally warned following their alleged conduct between 2013 and 2014.

The alleged conduct occurred in response to auction site Trade Me’s change from monthly subscription fee to per-listing fee in displaying properties for sale on its website. The commission accused the real estate agencies of breaching the Commerce Act by agreeing that vendors would have to pay for the listing fee before their properties are advertised on the site.

The national agencies that have been under these claims include head offices of five major companies – Barfoot and Thompson, Harcourts, LJ Hooker, Ray White and Bayley Corporation. The regulator has also included Property Page, owned by five agencies, as it convinced the agencies in implementing the new strategy. Property Page owns half of Trade Me competitor realestate.co.nz.

Bayleys has accepted the claims and will compensate for its conduct to the commission. It admitted that it violated the Commerce Act and agreed on settlement terms with the regulator, while other agencies have not claimed for any settlement.

A Bayleys spokesman said that the company was no more in a position to comment on the issue as the proceedings are under progress in the court. The spokeswoman from Barfoot & Thompson also would not comment on the matter, preferring to release a statement later.

Ray White NZ chief executive Carey Smith said that the company has not yet agreed for settlement. He said that the company’s position will be reviewed prior to coming to any conclusion.

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