Melbourne agency Hocking Stuart Richmond has been fined $330,000 by the Federal Court after admitting it mislead consumers by underquoting properties.
The agency was accused of making false representations to prospective buyers about the likely sale price of 11 residential properties at Richmond and Kew in 2014 and 2015, and admitted to "all of the allegations" made by Consumer Affairs Victoria.
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", the ABC reports.
"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."
Consumer Affairs Victoria said the fine imposed was the highest ever for underquoting. "Deceptive practices such as underquoting waste the time and money of Victorians on properties they simply cannot afford," Consumer Affairs Victoria director Simon Cohen said. "Underquoting erodes the confidence of purchasers and vendors in the conduct of real estate agents."
Hocking Stuart Richmond issued a statement ensuring their clients and buyers that they have "already implemented a number of changes to ensure this doesn't happen again."
"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," the statement read.
Consumer Affairs have 13 other investigations underway, and the Victorian Government has introduced anti-underquoting legislation to Parliament.
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