Property Brokers and its director Tim Mordaunt have been ordered to pay penalties totalling $1.5 million for colluding with other real estate agencies to make vendors foot the bill for advertising property on an auction site, according to a High Court judgment.
In the High Court in Auckland, Justice Murray Gilbert said Property Brokers and Mordaunt admitted they entered an anti-competitive price-fixing agreement with at least 10 other real estate agencies in the Manawatu region. The agreement was to pass on to vendor clients the costs of listing properties on Trade Me instead of absorbing these costs as overheads, as was the previous practice.
Property Brokers and Mordaunt reached settlements with the Commerce Commission admitting that their conduct breached the prohibition on price fixing in the Commerce Act, the regulator said in a statement. The court today ordered them to pay penalties of $1.45m and $50,000 respectively.
Property Brokers and Mordaunt are the final defendants to appear in Court in the Commerce Commission's Manawatu proceedings, which had already seen Unique Realty and Manawatu 1994 were fined $1.25m each for their roles the price-fixing deal.
In December 2015, the 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 commission has now concluded both the Manawatu and national proceedings and reached settlements with Hamilton-based Success Realty and Lugton's. Court-imposed penalties to date total $17.9m.
It noted that settlements have not been agreed with Monarch Real Estate (trading under the Harcourts banner), Online Realty (trading under the Ray White banner), Lodge Real Estate Limited and two individuals in the Hamilton proceedings. These proceedings remain before the Court.