Real estate brokers in North China's Tianjin Municipality have raised service charges after regulators relaxed controls on pricing of their services, but the fee hike might be in violation of the anti-monopoly law, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.
Following a recent price hike in real estate brokerage fees, the Tianjin Development and Reform Commission has initiated an anti-monopoly probe against the property brokers, the Xinhua report said.
Starting from August 1, the brokerage fee for secondhand home transactions in Tianjin has been raised to 3 percent of the total transaction value from the previous 2 percent, Pan Kaifang, a Tianjin-based broker with Homelink Property, told the Glo-bal Times on Sunday.
"Buyers and sellers used to pay 1 percent each of the transaction value [of a secondhand home], but now the buyer has to pay 2 percent and the seller has to pay 1 percent, respectively," Pan said.
Miao Weiqiang, a Tianjin-based real estate broker at Centaline Property, also confirmed the fee hike.
A customer service representative of 5i5j, another major property service provi-der, told the Global Times on Sunday that its Tianjin branch has taken the same decision as its peers, but the service charge for Beijing so far remains unchanged at around 2 to 2.2 percent of the total transaction value.
The Tianjin Development and Reform Commission was not available for comment on this investigation on Sunday.
"The property brokers will face anti-monopoly charges if evidence shows that they had colluded to reach an agreement and manipulated the fees," a law professor at the Beijing-based University of International Business Economics, told the Global Times on Sunday on condition of anony-mity as the case is still under investigation.
Given a gloomier market, it is more likely for service providers to reach a consensus on a higher service charge for mutual -benefit, he said.
China's once red-hot property market has lost some steam since early this year, weighing heavily on the performance of the real estate brokers.
The brokers' decision to revise charges came after a decision by the National Development and Reform Commission to free price setting from government control since July 1.
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