ComCom to appeal real estate agents price fixing decision

The Commerce Commission will continue to fight two Hamilton real estate firms for price fixing after a raft of bigger players settled with the watchdog.

It says in a statement it will file at an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

Real estate agencies Lodge and Monarch were two of 13 national and regional real estate agencies that the ComCom alleged were part of an anti-competitive price fixing agreement with other Hamilton real estate firms in response to a Trade Me price increase.

The other 11 agencies negotiated settlements with the regulator totalling nearly $20 million for the same alleged conduct.

Last month, the High Court dismissed the case against Lodge and its director Jeremy O’Rourke, and Monarch (which trades as Harcourts Hamilton) as well as its director Brian King.

The real estate agencies had met in 2013 to discuss a Trade Me price hike for real estate agents which has since been abandoned. The commission alleged at that meeting they agreed to withdraw their listings, and make customers pay for any new ads on the auction house.

However recently appointed High Court Justice Pheroze Jagose found that the actions did not amount to a breach of the Commerce Act.

The lawyer for the Monarch, Mark Anderson said in a statement at the time of the ruling: “The decision is a commonsense reflection of economic reality where even Trade Me recognised that realtors would have to pass the new price on to consumers. Passing on the Trade Me cost was the only viable option for agencies nationally.”

Commission chairman Mark Berry said the High Court judgment raises significant legal issues that merit an appeal in this case, but would not comment further.
 

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