by Tim O’Dwyer Solicitor*
JAN/FEB 1999 – National media reporting of Queensland’s well- established, two-tier property rorts.
JULY 1999 – Labor Government’s Fair Trading Minister, Judy Spence, tables report on “two-tier marketeering”in Queensland Parliament. “Two-tier” explained as meaning properties have two prices, a lower one for locals and a higher inflated price for conned fly-ins.
SEPTEMBER 2000 –Spence introduces Property Agents and Motor Dealers Bill to Parliament, says it contains “a number of protective mechanics to safeguard the rights of consumers.” Solicitor Tim O’Dwyer publicly describes Bill as “inexplicably watered down”.
NOVEMBER 2000 – Queensland Parliament passes Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act. Government claims it will address “over-zealous two-tiered marketeering practices.” Spence says Beattie government intends to “weed out unprincipled marketeers”.
APRIL 2001 –Australian Financial Review reports “two-tier are thriving in Queensland”, and quotes valuer Iain Herriott: “The general perception in the marketplace from developers is it [the Government crackdown] is all bluff and bullshit.” Office of Fair Trading boasts that a now-disbanded team of “untouchables” had prosecuted some unlicensed real estate agents.
JUNE 2001 – Money Magazine reports on “lame new laws”, and quotes valuer Mike Iveson that marketeers will “drive a bus” through the loopholes.
JULY 2001 – Property Agents And Motor Dealers Act becomes law. O’Dwyer describes Act’s cooling-off warning as more “a chance than a community chest card”.
AUGUST 2001 – Journalist Phil Dickie tells Brisbane Institute of “general trend of government” to protect consumers with loop-holed legislation that is not enforced. REIQ calls for inquiry into property marketeers.
AUG/SEPT 2001 – Journalist Hedley Thomas writes series of articles about the methods and results of on-going two-tier marketeering.
SEPTEMBER 2001 –O’Dwyer says “tricks and traps abound” while government “seems incapable of protecting real estate consumers.” Gold Coast Bulletin reports on Melbourne couple’s lucky escape from grossly overpriced town house contract. Gold Coast law firm Perrin Pointon breaks up after Perrin discovers Pointon’s “involvement in matters involving the marketeering industry”. Beattie government’s next Fair Trading Minister, Merri Rose, promises “to stop marketeers in their tracks”. Queensland Law Society welcomes “improved consumer protection laws for the property marketing industry”. Government fast-tracks new improved anti-marketeering laws. Minister Rose attacks consumer advocates Mike Iveson, Judy Teitzel and Tim O’Dwyer.
NOVEMBER 2001 – Australian Financial Review reports how marketeers advise the naive to “sign up now because you have a cooling-off period.” The term “two-tier” becomes less appropriate as over-priced properties are marketed only to out-of-towners and not available at all to locals.
DECEMBER 2001 – Gold Coast Bulletin reports on overpriced house-land packages occurring because of a loophole in the law. Law Society warns property buyers not to use solicitors recommended by anyone “connected with selling the property”. Gold Coast Bulletin reports marketeers continue to “reel in unsuspecting victims”, relates stories of Victorians and South Australians who escaped overpriced deals.
JANUARY 2002 – Fair Trading raids Coast solicitors, finance brokers, agent and developer in “blitz on illegal property marketeering”. (Property Agents Tribunal later dismisses with costs Fair Trading’s marketeering charges.)
MARCH 2002 – Minister Rose tells Law Society to act against solicitors involved in marketeering “network of deception”. Gold Coast Bulletin reports on marketeered Victorian couple referred by Fair Trading to anti-marketeering solicitor for “tactical advice” on escaping overpriced townhouse contract.
MAY 2002 – Gold Coast Bulletin recounts stories of four more southern couples rescued from overpriced scams.
AUGUST 2002 – Minister Rose suggests to Real Estate Institute of Australia that Queensland has “stamped out” marketeering, and the whole industry has “ceased operation”.
SEPTEMBER 2002 – Gold Coast Bulletin reports four more current cases of interstate investors escaping clutches of marketeers.
DECEMBER 2002 – Beattie Government retrospectively abolishes rights of marketeering victims after successful claims on Property Agents Fund. Minister Rose again under parliamentary privilege criticises solicitors Judy Teitzel and Tim O’Dwyer who act for marketeering victims.
SEPTEMBER 2003 – Valuer Herriot says marketeers have side-stepped anti-marketeering laws, scams will continue to grow until governments act.
OCTOBER 2003 – Fair Trading Commissioner admits on radio that marketeering still goes on. Australian Consultant Valuers newsletter describes “excessive fixed-fee consultant commissions” built into south-east Queensland house-land packages marketed to southern investors.
NOVEMBER 2003 – O’Dwyer allowed citizen’s right of reply to Rose’s attacks on him in Parliament.
JANUARY 2004 – Gold Coast lawyers Butler & Clements give enforceable undertaking to Office of Fair Trading after failing to comply with anti-marketeering disclosure law.
MARCH 2004 – Readers Digest (Aust. & N.Z.) reports Gold Coast marketeering scams still happening.
APRIL 2004 – 60 Minutes segment on real estate scams shows spruiker’s busload of investors touring Gold Coast properties, Neil Jenman tells Liz Hayes everyone is in on the scams except the victims.
JUNE 2004 – Valuer Herriott says 80% of recent Gold Coast unit sales effected by artificial price inflation.
JULY 2004 – ACCC loses Federal Court marketeering test case against marketeers and Commonwealth Bank, court rules that banks don’t have to disclose obvious over-pricing to customers.
NOVEMBER 2004 – Fair Trading gets first marketeering scalp. Gold Coast REIQ-member agent Phillip Hall found to have contravened anti-marketeering laws in 2002 on house-land packages. N.Z.’s INVESTIGATE magazine reports on “shonky Queensland property deals.”
DECEMBER 2004 – Gold Coast Bulletin reports on two more interstate couples rescued from over-priced scams where marketeers’ recommended solicitors made false certifications of independence, “despite government efforts to stamp out marketeering.”
JANUARY 2005 – Australian Property Investor magazine says “it would be naïve to assume” marketeering scams have “all disappeared”.
*Tim O’Dwyer is a Queensland solicitor and consumer advocate. firstname.lastname@example.org
by Tim O’Dwyer Solicitor*