The Federal Court has ordered an estate agency in Melbourne’s east and its director to pay almost $900,000 in fines and compensation for underquoting offences.
Hoskins Maroondah Pty Ltd (ACN: 095 367 712) was found to have made false, misleading and deceptive representations about the sale of land and to have engaged in unconscionable conduct, while its director Brent Peters was found to have aided and abetted these contraventions.
Hoskins Maroondah and Mr Peters will have to pay $860,000 in fines, $29,550 compensation to two vendors, and $10,000 in costs to Consumer Affairs Victoria.
Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria Sam Jenkin said the court outcome again demonstrated the state’s tough stance on underquoting. “This outcome sends a strong message to rogue estate agents—misleading sales practices will not be tolerated.”
There was also a number of other orders the company and Mr Peters must undertake, such as implementing a compliance program, complying with injunctions and publishing a public notice describing their offending.
The Federal Court found that between 2015 and 2016, Hoskins Maroondah advertised 24 properties for sale at prices lower than the company believed they would actually sell for.
The properties were in Croydon, Croydon Hills, Croydon North, Mooroolbark, Park Orchards, Ringwood, Ringwood North, Warranwood and Wonga Park.
The estate agency also told two vendors it was acting for, that their properties would sell for much less than the agency believed they would, enabling them to claim ‘incentivised commissions’ when the properties sold at a much higher price.
The Federal Court awarded the vendors $17,550 and $12,000 in compensation. “Underquoting is plainly unfair for prospective buyers, and as we’ve seen with this outcome, it can also be unfair for vendors too.” Mr Jenkin said. “This result will be welcomed by the overwhelming majority of estate agents. Honest agents suffer when rogue operators do the wrong thing.”
The fine is the latest in a line of court actions Consumer Affairs Victoria has brought against real estate agencies and agents for underquoting, with the tally from fines and compliance activities now standing at more than $3.5 million.