Agents flout competition rules

Five real estate associations have been accused by the Directorate-General for Competition of setting minimum fees for their services, in a scathing report against the industry. In a report passed on to the Competition Commission, the Directorate-General for Competition recommended the imposition of fines on the groups. «The indirect and direct setting of minimum fees is one of the most serious violations of competition rules that harms consumers,» the commission said in a statement yesterday. In inspections on the offices belonging to the associations located across the country, a series of documents were found that showed that the associations had set a minimum 2 percent fee on the value of properties, payable to the real-estate agent. This was set out clearly in their charter and had been stated in the minutes of meetings and other legal documents. The inspections also found that the group had forbidden their members from advertising a fee lower than the 2 percent mark or reducing it to zero. According to practices often adopted in the industry, both the buyer and seller are charged the fee, which means that a 4 percent charge is imposed on each transaction. It is common, however, for only the buyer to be hit with the fee and for the seller’s 2 percent to come out of the selling price, which would have been bumped up accordingly. The Competition Commission will examine the report on December 20 at a time when the government is striving to open up closed professions in Greece as dictated in the memorandum signed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund. This is the second real estate-related issue being investigated by competition authorities. At the start of November, the commission will be called on to decide whether a series of violations have been committed by the Technical Chamber of Commerce, which determines the minimum charges for construction projects.

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