Watchdog probes Trade Me boycott

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 13:17 07/02/2014

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The Commerce Commission is investigating whether some real estate agents breached the Fair Trading Act when they withdrew their listings from Trade Me's property site.

A commission spokesman said this morning the competition watchdog was looking into a complaint, but clarified this afternoon that it had commenced an investigation.

He believed the concern would be if there had been a co-ordinated boycott of Trade Me.

Trade Me chief executive Jon Macdonald said Trade Me had not made a formal complaint to the commission, but said a few things had "raised its eyebrows".

"We'd be disappointed to hear agents were colluding to remove listings," Macdonald said.

"If people aren't playing by the rules then they should be held accountable."

Trade Me director Sam Morgan, who this week labelled agents "turkeys", said he also had made no complaint.

Eighteen agents, mostly in Hamilton and Hawke's Bay, pulled their property listings from Trade Me after the online powerhouse increased its listings fees.

One, Hawke's Bay agent, Tremain, complained Trade Me had quadrupled its charges by switching from an arrangement under which agents could list as many properties as they liked for a flat-rate fee, to charging $159 plus GST, per listing.

Tremain director Cam Ward said Tremain had withdrawn its listings but denied any agreement between agents, saying everyone was taking their own position.

Macdonald said Trade Me's original pricing had been "out of whack with the value we provide".

The number of real estate offices that had withdrawn their listings equated to about 1 per cent of all offices that advertised properties on its website, he said.

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- Fairfax Media

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