Taskforce Vesta concludes underquoting investigations - News alert

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10 July 2017
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Two more Melbourne estate agencies have acknowledged they contravened consumer and property laws relating to house sales, as Consumer Affairs Victoria finalised investigations by Taskforce Vesta, its underquoting taskforce.

The final two active investigations concluded with Consumer Affairs Victoria accepting enforceable undertakings from JRW Property Investments Pty Ltd (ACN: 122 029 725) and Superior Realty Pty Ltd – trading as Barry Plant Glenroy (ACN: 098 225 248).

JRW Property Investments and Barry Plant Glenroy will contribute $75,000 and $45,000, respectively, to the Victorian Consumer Law Fund, for engaging in misleading and deceptive price advertising, including underquoting.

Both companies have also agreed to implement a compliance program and display a public notice at their respective company offices.

Taskforce Vesta was formed in 2015, in response to community concerns about agents misleading prospective buyers about the likely selling price of a property.

The taskforce inspected the offices of 34 selling agents, and examined 1,400 sales files, leading to 14 major investigations.

The underquoting investigations have led to the commencement of six cases in the courts and tribunals, and the acceptance of six enforceable undertakings.

New underquoting laws under the Estate Agents Act 1980 came into effect on 1 May 2017, and include requirements for how estate agents estimate and advertise selling prices, and ensure prospective buyers are given information about comparable, recent property sales in the same area, improving transparency.

A feature of the new laws is the Statement of Information, which requires agents to provide the selling price of three comparable properties and an indicative selling price taking into account the standard and condition, location and date of sale.

The reforms include fines of more than $31,000 and the potential loss of sales commissions for agents found guilty of underquoting.

Consumer Affairs Victoria has been working closely with industry to assist with implementation and education around the new laws, ensuring all estate agents are aware of their obligations.

Taskforce Vesta will relaunch ahead of the traditionally busy spring period for the real estate market, to ensure agents are fulfilling their requirements under the new legislation.

In coming months, Consumer Affairs Victoria will also launch a fresh campaign to educate consumers about their rights under the new laws.