On 29 June 2016, the Belgian Competition Authority closed its investigation into the Professional Institute for Real estate agents (“BIV”). It concluded that real estate agents are entirely free to determine their commission when selling properties.
The Competition prosecutor launched its investigations at the beginning of 2015. According to the information available, it suspected that the BIV invited real estate agents to continue to apply a commission of 3%, notwithstanding its previous condemnation by the Competition Authority for having established and circulated minimum scales in 2010. Moreover, it was claimed that the BIV was imposing on its members a particular line of conduct by the use of disciplinary procedures, which could hinder innovative practices or make them more difficult.
The Competition prosecutor sent online surveys to more than 8,000 BIV members. The online survey contained questions about tariffs and tariff structures on the one hand and about possible disciplinary procedures on the other hand. More than 50% of the real estate agents replied to the information request.
The results of the investigation did not reveal that the BIV still drafts and distributes recommended minimum scales.
However, the survey showed that the real estate sector still typically uses a limited range of tariffs and the commission rate of 3% of the sale price is still applied by a large number of real estate agents. Only 10% of the real estate agents that replied to the request apply a different pricing structure (fixed agent cost, cost related to the efforts made or a combination of fixed cost and a percentage of the sale price).
Therefore, the Belgian Competition Authority encourages a wider range of tariff structures in this sector. For this reason, it will continue to closely monitor the sector of real estate agents and it may open a new investigation in the future, if new facts indicate anti-competitive behaviour.
As to the allegations about disciplinary procedures, the survey results did not indicate that the BIV imposes a particular line of conduct on its members.