A Melbourne real estate agency has been fined $330,000 after admitting it mislead and deceived consumers by underquoting properties.
The Federal Court heard that Hocking Stuart on Bridge Road at Richmond made false representations to prospective buyers about the likely sale price of 11 residential properties at Richmond and Kew in 2014 and 2015.
The agency admitted to “all of the allegations” made by Consumer Affairs Victoria and was fined in the Federal Court today.
Justice John Middleton said the agency’s price ranges created the “illusion of a bargain” and consumers were likely to be “significantly inconvenienced, disappointed and deceived”.
“Some may have missed the opportunity to buy elsewhere, being lured into a bargain that did not, and was never going to, eventuate,” he said.
“Similarly the vendors of other properties, who were not marketing their properties in the same way, may have missed out on getting potential purchasers into their properties.”
Justice Middleton said the $330,000 effectively took away the $148,000 in commissions the agency earned from the sales.
The case stems from a wider crackdown by Consumer Affairs on underquoting by real estate agents, with 13 other investigations underway.
Agency has ‘implemented changes’
In a statement, the agency said it regretted the “mistakes” it had made.
“We want to assure our clients and buyers that we’ve already implemented a number of changes to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” the statement read.
“We put our agents through a refresher of Hocking Stuart’s rigorous compliance monitoring and training program, and have established a comprehensive compliance process and team within our office.”
Legislation being considered by State Parliament proposes to make it easier to prove underquoting offences and impose tougher penalties.