A company that operates three Barry Plant estate agent offices in Melbourne will pay $720,000, plus costs of $30,000, after the Federal Court of Australia found it engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and making false representations about property sales.
Melbourne South Eastern Real Estate Pty Ltd (ACN: 128 550 541) operates Barry Plant offices in Mount Waverley, Oakleigh and Wheelers Hill. The breaches, of the Australian Consumer Law, relate to conduct at the Mount Waverley office.
Our action against the company related to 25 property sale listings on the realestate.com.au website between 1 September 2014 and 25 August 2015. The properties were in Ashwood, Burwood, Burwood East, Chadstone, Hughesdale, Mount Waverley and Wheelers Hill.
The company admitted that, when uploading properties for sale, it had set price search parameters that were less than the:
- appraisal price, and
- estimated selling price written on the sale authority (for some of the properties).
This conduct was designed to make potential buyers think that a property advertised this way would sell at a much lower price than the company believed it would.
The $720,000 penalty, which must be paid to the Victorian Consumer Law Fund, exceeds the $490,923.67 in commissions the agency received for selling those properties.
Melbourne South Eastern Real Estate must also issue a public notice acknowledging their contraventions and:
- publish it on all websites the company operates, and on realestate.com.au
- display it in the Mount Waverley office.
The company must also:
- implement a compliance program, including training its staff about their legal obligations under the Australian Consumer Law, and
- appoint a compliance officer to ensure the program is effectively designed, delivered and maintained.