The Commerce Commission has been asked to launch an urgent investigation into a video encouraging property investors to use fake names, work in packs to drive down prices and target desperate homeowners facing foreclosure.
Labour's Consumer Affairs spokesman Michael Wood wrote to the commerce watchdog yesterday to lodge an official complaint.
Wood said he believed the video's content appeared to be in breach of the Fair Trading Act in terms of misleading or deceptive behaviour and false representations to consumers.
"The video clearly outlines unacceptable conduct and it's our view that it's possibly illegal under the Fair Trading Act," he claimed.
"I've specifically asked for an urgent investigation into the matter in respect of whether the law has been breached."
Wood also called on the Commerce Commission to issue an immediate statement condemning the tactics being employed, and calling for anyone with relevant information to contact the watchdog.
It encourages investors to target deceased estates, desperate homeowners facing foreclosure, developers on the brink of bankruptcy, divorcees and "dummies" who don't know the value of their home.
The video, by Auckland property tycoon Ron Hoy Fong to promote his company Ronovationz, also advises people to work in packs to drive down prices, and give vendors false names when making repeat offers.
"Some places are already a bargain," Fong tells viewers. "That's simply because the vendor's a dummy. He doesn't know what it's worth."
APIA president Andrew Bruce apologised yesterday "for any offence" the video may have caused and said it was being immediately withdrawn.
"Clearly we don't want to see people being taken advantage of. Clearly we don't condone that sort of behaviour.
"Now that we've actually seen what is in that material we'll stop that immediately and an email will be going out to our members."
Bruce said APIA was a non-profit organisation which relied heavily on sponsorship, including Fong's Ronovationz company.
"We are also reviewing that relationship, having had the content of the video drawn to our attention."
But key APIA sponsors are now reviewing their commercial partnerships with the investor group.
ANZ said it was "appalled" by the tactics being advocated, which did not align with the bank's core values.
Barfoot & Thompson said it would review the video footage with directors tomorrow and "and consider our sponsorship once we have all the facts".
Maintain To Profit general manager Mark Trafford said: "Our company has high ethics and moral standards and subsequently we will review the DVD in full and a decision will be made in regard to our ongoing support and sponsorship of APIA."
Keith Hay Homes marketing manager Barry Walker said the company did not condone the content but supported APIA as an "ethical and trustworthy organisation".
Consumer Affairs Minister Jacqui Dean said she was she concerned at the video's content, which appeared to be advocating "activities that may be deceiving consumers".
She was taking advice and referring the video to the Commerce Commission, which could investigate if it received a complaint.
However Wood said that did not go far enough.
"Regardless of the outcome of a legal complaint, anyone with a sense of decency can see that this behaviour is outrageous and unethical."
Encouraging people to give false names or put fictitious low bids on a property to advance someone's business interests was potentially unlawful, Wood said.
"The Fair Trading Act clearly provides provisions against that kind of behaviour.
"What's more, the advice isn't just theoretical. Mr Fong at one point clearly states he's engaged in the behaviour described."
Wood called for an urgent investigation and for the Commerce Commission to use its powers to compel Fong and APIA to provide evidence relevant to its inquiry "where breaches of the Act appear to have occurred".
Fong has denied exploiting homeowners or engaging in deceptive conduct.
He said his members simply looked for opportunities advertised by real estate agents and would never take advantage of anyone.