New Zealand Law Society - High Court sets penalties for Bayleys and Success Realty

High Court sets penalties for Bayleys and Success Realty

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The High Court in Auckland has ordered Bayley Corporation Ltd and Success Realty Ltd to pay penalties of $2.2 million and $900,000 respectively after penalty hearings relating to breaches of section 27 via section 30 of the Commerce Act 1986.

The actions were brought by the Commerce Commission, and the two are among 13 national and regional real estate agencies which the Commission filed court proceedings against in December 2015.

The proceedings relate to three separate alleged price fixing and anti-competitive agreements among national real estate agencies, Hamilton real estate agencies and Manawatu real estate agencies in response to Trade Me changing its fees for listing properties for sale on its website.

Bayleys and Success (which operates under the Bayleys brand) are the first agencies to appear in court in relation to the national and Hamilton cases respectively.

The Commerce Commission says both agencies cooperated with its investigation at an early stage. Bayleys reached a settlement with the Commission before court proceedings were filed, while Success reached a settlement shortly after. Each has admitted its conduct breached the prohibition on price fixing in the Commerce Act.

In her ruling on Bayleys ([2016] NZHC 1493), Justice Courtney acknowledged the seriousness of the conduct and its potential to affect a large number of transactions for residential properties.

Ruling on Success ([2016] NZHC 1494), she said she did not accept that the conduct fell at the lower end of the spectrum.

The Commerce Commission says it has now achieved penalties from an agency in each of the three separate national, Hamilton and Manawatu proceedings.

The cases against the remaining 10 agencies, Property Page Ltd and three individuals remain before the Court.