New laws target estate agents

Victorian real estate agents will only be allowed to quote prices within a strict range to buyers and seller, under a proposed law being introduced to the state's Parliament. Agents will be referred to Consumer Affairs Victoria for under or overquoting outside a 10 per cent range and may be fined up to $20,000.

The proposed law will also outlaw dummy bidding, force auctioneers to disclose all vendor bids made at auctions and require agents to pass on to consumers any discounts they get for bulk advertising in newspapers. The law will also allow buyers to withdraw from private sales regardless of the properties' prices, rather than the $250,000 limit that now applies.

Consumer Affairs minister John Lenders said that dummy bidding is of great concern to home buyers at auctions. Under the proposed law, the maximum fine for dummy bidding is $24,000 for a person and $60,000 for a company. Over the past 12 months Consumer Affairs Victoria has received 198 complaints about dummy bidding, and under- or overquoting on prices.