Hamilton's Ray White agency to pay $1.05m for Trade Me price fixing

The real estate agents breached the Commerce Act by agreeing a planned nationwide industry response to Trade Me's changed pricing model.

Hamilton real estate agency Online Realty, which trades as Ray White Hamilton City, has been fined $1.05 million for its part in a nationwide price fixing case after a group of realtors 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 real estate agents breached the Commerce Act by agreeing a planned nationwide industry response to Trade Me's changed pricing model at a board meeting for Property Page (NZ), which is owned by major real estate firms Barfoot & Thompson, Harcourts, LJ Hooker, Ray White, and Bayleys.

In December 2015, the Commerce Commission filed proceedings in the High Court 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. The commission also issued warnings to an additional eight agencies for their role in the conduct.

The courts have imposed nearly $19 million in penalties so far, with the head offices of Barfoot, Harcourts, LJ Hooker and Ray White fined $9.8 million collectively while Bayleys was fined $2.2 million.

Online Realty admitted to agreeing with other agents to pass on the cost of Trade Me listing to vendors, and to unlawful price fixing by agreeing with the others that vendors' existing listings would be removed from Trade Me.

High Court Justice Patricia Courtney said that the Hamilton agency wasn't the ringleader but the conduct had made a significant and lasting change to the market, with the majority of Hamilton real estate agents continuing to pass on the cost.

Two Hamilton-based real estate agencies are defending the claims against them and will go to court in September. They are Lodge, its director Jeremy O'Rourke, and Monarch, trading as Harcourts Hamilton, and its director Brian King.

(BusinessDesk)

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