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Price fixing earns agency $1.25 million fine

Manawatu 1994 has become the second Palmerston North real estate agency to earn a significant penalty for its involvement in a price fixing scandal aimed at Trade Me.

Tuesday, November 29th 2016, 1:00PM

by Miriam Bell

The agency, which operates under the LJ Hooker banner, was ordered to pay a $1.25 penalty by the Auckland High Court today.

Manawatu 1994 reached an agreement with the Commerce Commission earlier this year, after admitting its conduct breached the prohibition on price fixing in the Commerce Act.

The settlement stemmed from the price fixing charges against 13 real estate agencies around the country filed by the Commission last December.

The charges, which followed a long investigation, were for three separate alleged price fixing and anti-competitive agreements among national real estate agencies, Hamilton real estate agencies and Manawatu real estate agencies.

In his ruling released, Justice Murray Gilbert said participation in price fixing agreements is regarded as serious misconduct.

“In this case, the agreement involved at least 11 real estate agencies representing most of the relevant market in the region.

“The agreement therefore had the potential to affect a large number of consumers.

“Balanced against this, the agreement did not eliminate all price competition, nor was this the aim, and Manawatu did not initiate the agreement.”

One of the other Manawatu real estate agencies, Unique Realty reached a settlement with the Commission before the proceedings were filed.

It was fined $1.25 million earlier this year by the Auckland High Court.

The Commission’s case against the remaining Manawatu defendants - Property Brokers Limited and an unnamed individual - remains before the Court.

However, the Commission has also come to settlements with Hamilton-based Success Realty and Bayleys at the national level.

The Court-imposed penalties currently total $5.6 million.

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