One of the most drawn-out and costly media battles in recent times – the war between Fairfax Media’s Domain and the rival News Corp-owned REA Group – has come to an end in the Federal Court.
Both real estate groups have claimed wins from the long-running feud, which all started 12 months ago when REA lodged seven claims – one of which was dropped – to the Federal Court that Domain was publishing misleading or deceptive ads.
Specifically, REA alleged that Domain claimed in its advertising that its app was the number one property app in Australia, had the most property listings in Sydney and Melbourne, and is Australia’s highest-rated property app.
Federal Court Justice Bernard Murphy determined that two of Domain’s ad claims of having the most listings in Sydney were false and misleading, while others were just “advertising puffery” and were not deceptive.
The two ads that got Domain into trouble with the law were a full-pager in the Sydney Morning Herald – which was published in February last year with the tagline “#1 property app in Australia” – and a series of billboards in the harbourside city.
Commenting on the court judgement, Domain Group CEO Antony Catalano said he found it “incredibly amusing to see the PR machine REA has swung into place to justify their action”.
“I have said before, REA’s strategy is ‘litigate and imitate’,” he said.
“For a business that spends an extraordinary amount of time telling the media how much bigger they are than Domain, they spend a lot of time and money watching us.
“I’m so very proud of the people in our business, our products and the passion we have. Much more to come.”
REA Group boss Tracey Fellows said the overall judgment was a “good outcome” and “justified why we took action in the first place”, according to news.com.au.
“Our aim in taking this action was to ensure customers and consumers are able to make informed decisions based on reliable facts,” she said.
“We are one step closer to keeping our competitor honest and accountable to provide reliable and fact-based information.”