Eastern Suburb Real Estate Agent $60k Fine
An estate agency in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs has agreed to contribute $60,000 to the Victorian Consumer Law Fund, as part of a signed undertaking where it acknowledged it made false and misleading representations about properties for sale.
“Underquoting is not a smart sales tactic – it’s illegal. This undertaking sends a strong message to agents doing the wrong thing.” – Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz
Consumer Affairs Victoria investigated Harcourts Wantirna and its sole director, Achilles Mantsos, after receiving 17 complaints about the company’s conduct between April and July of 2015.
The company acknowledged contraventions relating to four properties under the Australian Consumer Law (Victoria) and 20 properties under the Estate Agents Act 1980 (EAA).
False and misleading representations
The company routinely set price search parameters when uploading properties for sale on realestate.com.au, which were substantially less than the estimated selling range (ESR) or estimated selling price (ESP) on those properties’ sale authorities.
As a result, potential buyers searching for properties would enter their nominated price range, and find listings from Harcourts Wantirna for homes whose ESR or ESP was much higher.
In one example, a Wantirna property was advertised for $750,000, when the ESR was listed on the sale authority as $900,000 to $990,000. Another was advertised at “$580,000 plus”, when the ESR was $690,000 to $750,000.
On other occasions, the company provided an ESR where the difference between the upper and lower range limits was more than 10 per cent of the range’s lower limit, in contravention of the EAA. In one example, the ESR on a Scoresby property was listed in the sale authority as $490,000 to $549,000, which exceeded the 10 per cent limit.
“Our home buyers deserve a fair go. There’s nothing clever about deceiving people who are making one of the biggest purchases of their life.” – Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz
Enforceable undertaking by Harcourts Wantirna
As part of the undertaking, the company agreed to:
- contribute $60,000 (in six instalments) to the Victorian Consumer Law Fund, within 30 days of commencing the undertaking
- implement a compliance program within three months of the start of the undertaking, at its own cost
- display a public notice stating its contraventions at existing or new premises from which the company operates. This public notice must be displayed within 14 days of the start of the undertaking and remain displayed for three months. The notice must also be displayed on the company’s website.
- The properties in question were located in Wantirna, Wantirna South, Boronia, Bayswater, Scoresby, Knoxfield and Forest Hill.
This enforceable undertaking will be in effect for three years.