The Estate Agents Authority (EAA) yesterday defended its proposed annual licence fees, saying it had taken into account the property-market downturn. Yeung Ka-sing, chairman of the EAA's licensing committee, also said the proposed fees would be fixed only after the panel referred to the pricing structures used in other sectors, such as the travel and legal professions. Mr Yeung's comments came in the wake of criticism from estate agents that the fees being proposed by the EAA, which was set up to regulate the industry and needs the fees to fund its budget, would be too high at a time when the property market was struggling. Agents have urged the EAA to cut the proposed fees by at least 40 per cent. Mr Yeung said the EAA's annual budget was estimated at $40 million. He said one of the authority's main expenses would be salaries for up to 30 staff when it goes into full operation next year. The proposed fees were conservative, he said, because the industry had been adversely affected by a severe market correction. The EAA expected to receive criticism from the industry because nobody liked to pay such fees, Mr Yeung said. The proposed fees were unlikely to increase the burden of companies, as they would cost them an average of about $200 a month, he said. Mr Yeung said the authority would regulate the industry and guarantee the interest of consumers. The number of complaints was expected to increase once the EAA started operation next year, he said, adding that the authority also needed to consider whether its financial position was strong enough to conduct investigations.