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It is not wise to make PEXA, which is partly owned by Landgate and the Big Four banks, the only electronic lodgement network for property transfers, according to East Metropolitan MLC Charles Smith.

Concerns about property transfers

MOST people probably give little thought to settlement fees and property transfers even when they are buying or selling a house but they need to know there are changes happening that concern some in the industry. 

By December 1 settlement agents and lawyers involved in property sales have been set a deadline to carry out all property transfers, discharge of mortgages and withdrawal of caveats electronically via PEXA.

Landgate, which is based in Midland, has a 12 per cent shareholding in PEXA, which stands for Property Exchange Australia Ltd – Australia’s first electronic lodgement network.

As well as Landgate, three other states and commercial entities such as the Big Four banks including the Commonwealth Bank, which has just been issued a $700 million fine after admitting its “smart” ATM system was misused by criminal networks to import drugs and guns, are also PEXA shareholders.

East Metropolitan MLC Charles Smith, who is against the privatisation of Landgate, said in light of the CBA admitting its ATM system was exploited it was not wise to make PEXA the only electronic lodgement network available.

“Australia has an appalling record on money laundering especially into the residential property market,’’ he said. 

“Australia has amazingly slack money laundering regulations and this is well known by international criminals needing to wash the proceeds of crime.’’

In April the WA conveyancing industry was granted a seven-month extension to December to prepare for digital transition after it became obvious the industry was not going to meet a May deadline.

Mr Smith said some members of Parliament including cross-bench members had lobbied Ms Saffioti to delay the introduction of the e-conveyancing system and that the cross bench had been prepared to move a Disallowance motion if further consultation was not allowed.

At the time Lands Minister Rita Saffioti said adopting electronic conveyancing would ensure the state maintained best practice systems, which provided superior protection of Western Australians’ property assets from fraud while meeting consumer expectations around the ease and efficiency of online transactions.

The Australian Institute of Conveyancers WA executive officer Dion Dosualdo said at this stage there were no safe guards in PEXA to confirm or authenticate financial transfers as a means of verifying recipient details. 

“Large sums of money are transferred blindly in the hope they reach their intended destination or recipient,’’ he said. 

“This issue is largely outside of PEXA’s control, who would require the support of the broader banking industry and or the Australian Registrars National Electronic Conveyancing Council to implement account verification and make it available in PEXA. 

“This concern has been identified as a major weakness which AICWA works closely with its members to mitigate against.”

Mr Smith said anyone wanting to buy, sell or develop land needed to be assured the register was accurate. 

He said state land titles businesses were a critical government service and a profitable natural monopoly.  

“Their sale will very possibly result in customers being gouged by the new monopoly owners, whereas the state governments will lose a reliable income stream.”

By Anita McInnes

Hackers expose electronic property settlement risk

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

2 comments

  1. We are being sold out again by our State Government. How could any sane person allow this to become under the control of the big 4 banks that are now proven to be nothing but a bunch of crooks.

    And not to mention the hypocrisy, not to sell Western Power on the grounds that power prices go up, and then screw us on power prices. Whats the difference between WP and Landgate? Union influence maybe.

    Just wait for the charges skyrocket next year.

    And people believed the previous government was crook.

  2. Only yesterday PEXA had issues from 10am to 1pm when matters were delayed in moving to a settled status and funds being distributed. Imagine if a Buyer is sitting at the front of their new home for 3 hours waiting for the word that it’s settled so they can get the key? I also don’t believe that PEXA will reduce fraud. No longer does a settlement agent see the Transfer doc so the Seller’s signature can be compared. The Buyer’s settlement Agent has to hope that the seller’s settlement Agent has done all the checks which will happen 99.9% of the time. And next time Telstra has an internet outage – who knows?

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