The Schibsted-owned Norwegian horizontal classifieds platform Finn.no could be in trouble after the Chairperson of the Board of the Norwegian Real Estate Association (NEF) sent a complaint against the company to competition authorities in the country.
Although it is a horizontal marketplace site, Finn.no operates the leading real estate marketplace in the country and has almost no viable competitors in the market.
According to the NEF's Chairperson Randi Hollingen, the company has abused the lack of competition to drive up prices to "an unreasonably high level" while giving discounts on enhanced listings packages to larger brokerages in order to encourage smaller agents to spend more to compete.
In a letter to NEC members Hollingen said:
"FINN's behavior inflicts a completely meaningless cost increase on home sellers and real estate agents. Fearing that customers' advertising will disappear in the crowd, all brokerage chains end up choosing the largest and most expensive advertising package for FINN.
Paradoxically, the differentiation between different regional markets, different housing types and different consumer needs has been replaced by a rigid model where what were previously optional elements are packed together with new elements in a solution that the broker is locked to using in all housing sales. This could never have happened if FINN had been exposed to normal competition."
It's not agents in Norway who are up in arms over Finn's pricing. The national federation of homeowners and a government-funded consumer organization have also expressed concerns over the platform's pricing power in the real estate vertical.
The NEC has real power in Norway and represents some 80% of agents in a country where 98.5% of homes are sold through an agent. For now, the complaint is with Norway's competition authorities and will be processed accordingly.
This is not the first time that Schibsted's flagship horizontal has bumped up against competition authorities. Last year the company was ordered to sell its majority stake in car auction platform Nettbil with Schibsted deciding to sue the competition authorities rather than accept the decision.