Australia’s B&T advertising, marketing media and PR industry website, reported yesterday that, News Ltd publications has been accused of awarding six-figure cash incentives to real estate advertisers so to entice them into long-term contracts.
Melbourne’s Metro Media Publishing Managing Director, Antony Catalano, has accused realestate.com.au and Leader Newspapers of presenting “large cash offers” to real estate agents in Melbourne.
Estate agents are not allowed to accept cash inducements in the state of Victoria, and the act of accepting such a payment is deemed illegal, if the receiving agent does not pass the money on to their clients.
According to the B&T article, Catalano said that REA Group – owned by News Ltd – offered a particular estate agent a six-figure sum to sign a two year advertising contract. Catalano stressed that, if the money was intended to be returned to the vendor, the agents would pass it on in the form of a discount, but it is not being passed on. Catalano said, “It’s a way of controlling the market. Disgruntled agents are fed up with REA’s bullying tactics.”
News Ltd has denied all claims of wrongdoing and the company has stated that, “Mr. Catalano is mistaken. Leader does not write cheques to agents to stop them signing up their clients with other publishers. Leader deals with agents in a proper and lawful way.”
REA Group’s CEO, Greg Ellis, added: “Our customer contracts do not include cash payments to agency sales offices and REA’s business practices comply with all state and federal laws.”
Antony Catalano claims that he has also referred details of incentive cheques paid to real estate agents to Consumer Affairs Victoria, and yesterday, all of Melbourne’s real estate agents received an email from Catalano, stressing to them the importance of resisting cash offers.