Portal wars: Domain threatens to report REA to regulator

Domain Group has written to REA Group to demand an end to "deceptive and misleading" performance comparisons.

Domain chief executive Antony Catalano said REA Group had falsely claimed to have made audience gains over Domain when announcing its results earlier this month.

The accusations were contained in a letter that he sent yesterday to REA Group chief executive Tracey Fellows.

“When you include mobile app visits, traffic to our sites grew by 19 per cent, or over 55 per cent faster than your growth rate of 12 per cent over the same period,” the letter said.

Mr Catalano said an apples-for-apples comparison between the arch-rivals’ site traffic clearly shows a higher growth rate in visits for Domain Group sites.

“It is therefore our belief that the statements you made at the investor briefing and in subsequent media and investor comments are deceptive and misleading, and we would request that in future you reflect our comparative market positions honestly,” he said.

“Should you fail to do so, we will take action under Australian competition and consumer law.”

Ms Fellows told Real Estate Business that REA Group disputed Domain’s claims.

“We take our reporting obligations seriously and report traffic comparisons correctly and in line with industry standards. We confidently stand by the figures reported,” she said.

Mr Catalano also sent a letter to agents yesterday in which he elaborated on the dispute about audience share.

According to the letter, REA Group’s performance comparisons failed to include “the growth part” of Domain’s business – its mobile apps.

“That is deceptive and misleading conduct, and we have today written to REA reminding them of their obligations under Australian competition and consumer law,” Mr Catalano said.

“In summary, Domain Group is gaining market share in visits, and we are confident that as the impact of other investments starts to flow through, this trend will continue.”

Mr Catalano also used the letter to promote Domain’s agent equity model, which he said had now received more than 1,500 expressions of interest from agencies.

He said this model has “acted as a check against REA's outrageous prices” since starting in November 2012.

“Little wonder then that REA's board, management and News [Corp’s] print media outlets have launched such a shrill attack on the model.

“After all, real estate agents are partnering with Domain for the very reason that their businesses have been put at risk by the monopolistic behaviour of REA group.

“Put simply, REA's digital real estate advertising prices are among the highest in the world, and the company has consistently challenged real estate agents and vendors on price increases.”

[Related: Domain reports 27.2pc jump in revenue]

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