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Agents' Mutual and its supporters feel their proposition needs the exclusivity rule to give it teeth. However, what if those teeth turn round and bite their master

This is my third article on the subject of Agents' Mutual and I think I'm gaining ground. The FT has taken up the story and I wouldn't be surprised if Agents' Mutual supporters start breaking ranks as they realise they could be going out of the frying pan into the fire.

With a bit of luck, common sense will prevail and Agents' Mutual will realise the only responsible thing to do is admit they were wrong and drop the exclusivity rule before it's too late.

If they won't see sense, I would strongly suggest taking your own legal advice before signing up. If you have already signed up, seek legal advice anyway, as any agreement found to be anti-competitive will become null and void.

To recap, my starting position back in January was to question the validity of the exclusivity rule imposed by Agents' Mutual on its members. At the time I wasn't making a legal point but a pragmatic one.

My audacity saw me banned from Agents' Mutual meetings by Ian Springett himself. This highhandedness made me question the core motivation of the proposition and has led me to speak out for the industry.

Recently, my second article posed the question 'would you sign a five year franchise agreement with an unknown company who insist you become their appointed representatives, promote their business and relinquish control over your marketing strategy'

In reply to a post made in the comments section of this article, I raised the question as to the legality of the exclusivity rule. Since then I have been researching this aspect and have concluded that there is serious cause for concern.

Russell Quirk from eMoov has clearly been thinking along similar lines. As has been recently reported, he has now made an official complaint to the CMA.

By coincidence the story broke on the day after I was on the phone to the CMA. Their opinion, after listening to me explain the Agents' Mutual proposition and the exclusivity rule, was that there was cause for concern and I should make a complaint.

A lesson from history

When I founded Choices back in 1989, the only source of local marketing was the local papers. Our first office was in Crawley, where there were two local papers with property sections, the Crawley News and the Crawley Observer. They were fairly evenly matched and competed on price, which meant agents had a choice. In this way they could be compared to Zoopla and Rightmove. A page of advertising was about £350 with discounts for volume. At one point we were paying for 11 pages including sales and lettings. Even with discounts it was far more than the equivalent portal cost.

At the time we were advertising a service that comprised an upfront fee of £250 plus 1/2% commission on sale. The local agents didn't like us so they got together with the Crawley Observer and agreed to all advertise exclusively with that paper on the condition we were excluded. This dislike and rejection could be likened to Agents' Mutual's rejection of online agents.

A series of amusing phone calls between me and the advertising manager of the Observer followed, where I was suddenly quoted £2000 a page and then told the paper was 'fully booked' for three months. In response to this, I sent a private investigator along to a meeting of the cartel to record their conversations. I then sent a letter to the Competition Commission, as the CMA was called back then. Surprisingly enough, the paper suddenly became un-fully booked and we all went back to competing with one another as before. Later on I made friends with most of my antagonists and we all laughed about it.

The parallel between my experience and what's happening today is striking, albeit today it is on a far grander scale.

The main questions are whether the Agents' Mutual exclusivity requirement is legal, or whether it breaches UK or European competition legislation Or both And, if it is illegal, what are the consequences for the participants

There was an especially interesting article on the Pinsent Masons OutLaw.com website, entitled Anti-Competitive Behaviour under the Enterprise Act. I think it is essential reading for anyone considering signing with Agents' Mutual, or, even more importantly, anyone who has already signed.

Here is an extract: From 1 April 2014, the cartel offence was redefined such that, for agreements entered into or operating after that date, it is no longer necessary for the prosecution to prove that the individuals acted dishonestly'.

The Act added new provisions to the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 to permit the disqualification of directors where the company of which they are a director has breached competition law....The OFT may seek disqualification (for a period of up to 15 years) where serious infringements of EU or UK competition law are established, not just for participation in hardcore cartels.

It's interesting that one of the defences open to an individual accused of an offence under the competition rules is that they took reasonable steps to seek legal advice. This raises the question as to whether Agents' Mutual has taken this precaution. If they have, when did they do it This new guidance was only introduced in April this year.

I would also conclude that each company signing up to the exclusivity rule would need to take their own legal advice to use this defence in the event of prosecution, a prosecution that could be mounted by any interested party.

It's worth having a look at how the Agents' Mutual exclusivity rule might be viewed by the CMA. The reason for the exclusivity rule is to control portal costs and, indirectly, to increase member profits. This could be seen to be at the expense of the consumer, who would suffer as a result of their property receiving less exposure than it would have done if the free market were allowed to operate.

When making a business decision it's usually best to act with your head not your heart, which means weighing up what you have to gain and what you have to lose by going ahead. Apply this to the Agents' Mutual proposition and there seems precious little to gain and everything to lose, if it turns out that as a member you have been complicit in illegal, anti-competitive activity.

Government agencies such as the CMA can afford to be patient, so if Agents' Mutual launches with the exclusivity rule in place it could be like having the sword of Damocles hanging over its members heads for a long time to come.

I'm hoping I don't have to write another article on this increasingly embarrassing (for the industry) subject. I'm hoping to hear an announcement very soon from Agents' Mutual that they are reviewing their position on the exclusivity rule. If I don't hear that announcement then I will continue with my next installment and, believe me, I have plenty more reasons why Agents' Mutual, as it's currently constituted, is a very bad idea.

Article written by Simon Shinerock, Chairman of Choices Estate Agents. For more information on Simon, see his LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/simonshinerock

Comments

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    A mutual organisation is at least a bit socialist, give me that! I don't feel desperate I promise, the substance of my argument has already been stated but I will pick you up in a couple of points,

    you said

    'so why not agree that we will advertise on one common one to assist with a little control on the future costs I have with the other I decide to stay with. Perfect BUSINESS sense I would say'

    All good but you have left out the most important bit. Which is that you and your competitors have not just agreed to advertise on a portal but you have all agreed to accept that portals condition that you drop all their competitors bar one. Once you add this to the mix I think you have done a fair job of describing the aims and goals of a Cartel!

    Before you disagree, let me explain. Try to ignore the corporate structure of AM for a moment because it's not the only relevant factor. The overriding factor in determining anti competitive cartel like behaviour is not the structure but the intention. You need to see through the structure and see the AM proposition for what it is in relation to a reasonable test of cartel like intention. This approach broadly follows the principal of 'if it looks like a duck and it quacks it's probably a duck', do you hear quacking

    I agree that most lawyers tend to say maybe (wibble) and are very reluctant to approve anything unless it is clear cut. Nevertheless if the venture is important enough you have to get an opinion, I did when it came to a new business model I developed and Choices is a much smaller concern than AM will be if it gets off the ground. I need to correct your observation about Choices. about 80% of the business is high St agency, the remaining 20% is a nationwide investment buyers agency.

    The thing is I'm not frightened by online agents, I don't think agency is better if it's cheaper. Equally I don't feel portals as they stand are my biggest priority, there are loads of other factors that are much more important at the moment. I think the AM idea is understandable but taking all factors into account I think it is a bad move for the industry. I think that its existence has helped and is helping agents realise it's them that have the whip hand when negotiating with RM and Zoopla because they don't need both.

    In a way I suppose I would be better off keeping quiet as for non joiners a problem racked lame duck AM would be a bit of a godsend in a tightening market but from an industry point of view I think it could be a very thing, especially with extra regulations for Lettings looming round the corner. You seem to a pragmatist at heart, you have joined because on balance you think AM will get the job done for you, I don't, I think it's going to be a horrible mess. The difference is that you have already signed up, so you probably feel obliged to defend your decision whatever I say.

    Let's see what the new year has in store

    • 31 October 2014 16:49 PM
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    @Simon. Seriously, I cannot believe that you are comparing my choosing to display my properties for sale is akin to becoming a communist!!! I appreciated your reply despite being away but honestly felt that your reply there was bordering on the desperate full of maybe's and could be's but signally lacking in any substance. If you asked a lawyer a question, unless they are a specialist in this field you are going to get a maybe and that I'm afraid is proof of nothing and you view that agents should check out their legal position, why I am advertising my properties on a website, not acting in anyway inappropriately. IF AM are subject to a challenge thats down to them, are the shareholders of stocks similarly responsible for the actions of the company, of curse they are not. To correct your assumption of my motivations, I am not going a band of brothers, my competitors are my competitors but the fact is they ARE going to advertise or one or more portals so why not agree that we will advertise on one common one to assist with a little control on the future costs I have with the other I decide to stay with. Perfect BUSINESS sense I would say. Turning to Ian Springett, I know exactly what sort of personality he is and I agree with you he positively drools aggressive hatred towards the other portals but heres the point, I don't have to like him, I just need someone who knows how to run a website and one who has a determination for it to succeed, whatever his motives. He fulfils that role. Simon, I have looked at your website now and I understand that your business model relies on distance marketing. Perhaps that has been successful for you, but I have also been doing this job a long time and we have been talking about facts, I know for a FACT that an agent cannot successfully market properties from a distance with anything like the success of someone local, despite the portals. Yes you will sell a few, but not as many. You are also taking a bigger guess with the values, reducing the sellers chances of attracting the BEST in market prices and are also because of stock levels be unlikely to assist with them finding another property. These are all facts and so i don't believe the Big agents are motivated by worry because they will always do better, I do however see why online only agents are worried, because they have relied on customers believing that portal advertising is all thats needed to sell a property. We (and I hope you are honest about this) know that is not the case.

    • 31 October 2014 10:19 AM
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    on the legal point, I'm not joining AM so I don't need to pay for advice but if I was I would. I researched this subject though and I know of others who have spoken to lawyers and let's say we have a difference of opinion you and me. The law has been tightened not loosened in this area and a legal challenge can come from any interested party at any time. If anyone has Learned advice that puts this matter to rest, I'm sure this publication would be delighted to see it, it would be newsworthy don't you think My view on mutuality is that like communism, it normally results in a dictatorship of sorts. My experience backs up my suspicious instincts in that I feel I was treated very poorly by Mr Springett and if his purpose was to shut me up, well it didn't work, did it Did he exersise good judgement Are you happy in his and his colleagues hands Imagine that 6 months after OTM launch Google decide to re-enter the market with a free map based feed. Imagine a clever AI tech company creates a solution that you can't even imagine, one that makes RM and Zoopla look totally out dated. Or imagine the portal you don't choose has an iPhone moment and you end up stuck with two white elephants and no way out for years. Now think about how the AM proposition is going to play with the public and how your competitors are going to use it against you. When I was at Uni I always remember a political theory lecture about the authority of the state. It was expressed as a contract, one in which everyone was better off than if anarchy prevailed. However, the lecturer pointed out that although everyone was better off, where everyone kept the contract, in practice, you were even better off if everyone else keeps the contract and you break it. This is a timeless conundrum that stems from our basic human nature, it's why unions are usually corrupt and socialism doesn't work. You may think that by joining AM you are banding together with like minded brothers but that really isn't true, they are your competitors and either on their own or in cliques they will follow their own self interest. I am of the view that the motivation behind AM is partly the ego's of the big agents and partly their desire to protect their fiefdoms at the top end of the market. Country Life isn't there any more to create a massive barrier to entry to the masses, their instincts will be to see the great levellers RM and Zoopla as a threat to that fiefdom and to look for another way of protecting it. Has AM made any declaration about premium advertising I wonder, but then again I would wouldn't I.

    • 30 October 2014 18:06 PM
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    Jonboy, I know of agents who have been offered a big reduction in RM fees for next year without even asking just because of the AM perceived threat. What's interesting is that from the two big portals point of view it makes no difference whether you leave one of them for AM or to spend the money on Ivory back scratchers. If AM have done anything, it's to alert (alert) agents that they do have a strong bargaining position with the duopoly if they have the courage to use it. I know that Romans survived and prospered on just one big portal, other agents can to. Marketing property is a much more subtle business than simply advertising on two big portals. My position would be very different if there was a gouging monopoly, in which case I would be the first to demand the authorities act and to take action if they didn't

    • 30 October 2014 17:37 PM
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    Hello simon, thank you for the resonse. It is appreciated. Would you suggest I pay the portal increases and stay with Zoopla and Rightmove, even though my competitors who signed for am seem to be getting a discount or no rises It just seems unfair. Do you think the high increases I've been quoted next year are because I'm loyal to the sites and not, at present moving to OTM

    • 30 October 2014 14:54 PM
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    You deserve a proper reply to this, I'm on a walking tour of Barcelona at the moment so I'll get back to you later :-)

    • 30 October 2014 14:00 PM
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    @Simon Now you are putting words in my mouth, of course you are entitled to your opinion but its not back up by any legal credible argument and nor will it be because any cases, even with the article you quoted from were firstly bought by the OFT (renowned for taking on high profile cases regardless) which no longer exist and secondly were about price fixing, which if anything the AM concept is trying to reverse! But I come back to my point about scaremongering and your suggestion that advertisers might be liable is complete fantasy and that point had no place being raised in my opinion. The 5 year contract is an onerous one I grant you, especially if you intend to sell your business in that time, but I can again see why its necessary. OTM is not going to create a firm market in one year. It will take probably close to 5 to become a mainstream focus for house buyers and Am are sensibly asking for that commitment. No a problem and again its one of those agree or don't agree but that Simon is CHOICE something I think you of all people should understand. As for exclusivity they are setting up with estate agents that fulfil the current public perception of what an estate agent is. Whilst there is some huge variation in what Online only marketing is they are using some quality control, how is that a problem. What happens long term remains to be seen but I for one believe that if you are going to market property anywhere in the country you should pay the equivalent fee as if you had an office there. If the online only agents subscribe to that then I have now problem with them placing their properties alongside mine.

    • 30 October 2014 13:49 PM
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    If PL was still operating now with that rule I believe they would be in difficulty

    • 30 October 2014 13:20 PM
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    There seem to be some very short memories out there. Primelocation started with a total ban on ANY other portals so not sure why you think allowing one other is so radical or potentially illegal

    • 30 October 2014 12:28 PM
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    Richard you put forward a very emotive problem but you don't make a cool case for AM being the solution. You say the legal threat is just my opinion, that is not so and even if it was I'm entitled to form one on the facts as I see them. Even if it turns out that I and others are wrong about our legal concerns there are other strong reasons why the exclusivity rule and the five year commitment are a bad thing, many of these points are made in my earlier articles.

    • 30 October 2014 12:16 PM
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    I'm not sure whose blog you are reading but it isn't mine. I've written three articles on this subject, the themes are simple and not really controversial if you take out all the emotive responses. If you join AM you risk weakening your business, you risk exposure to a legal threat and you are putting your trust in an organisation with no track record. Prime Location is the nearest historical precedent and look what happened there. The assumption you make is there are no alternatives to AM or that bigger more important threats aren't looming large. Our industry is changing at an exponential rate, agents who commit their marketing strategy into the hands of others for five years are taking a big risk whatever way you cut it. Maybe I'm too cynical, or maybe I'm being pragmatic but my head and my heart say this won't work and may end in tears for the participators

    • 30 October 2014 12:08 PM
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    @Simon. I don't believe I am trying to hang on to the past, in fact I am doing way all good business people do and that is learning from their mistakes. Rightmove was a mistake for us as an industry, we wanted to be part of a then corporate agent dominated world but as it happened the independent agents prospered and the corporates suffered but they had our costs in their hands. Today if you look at what LSL, Connels etc are paying its a fraction of what independent agents are paying. I have read all of the profit reports listed and even now a large chunk of their profits comes from not selling houses but their shares in the portals. Ok thats business and there is nothing one can do about that but they have us by the b*lls and thats why OTM is so crucial. I hear what you are saying about legal challenges but to be fair unless you've changed profession its just YOUR unsubstantiated opinion but you are trying to make it a fact and it simply isn't. I don't believe that AM are required to substantiate or offer credibility to speculation (which is what you are trying to achieve with this) they are simply required to set out a business model that works. I was never interested in just joining another portal, I am interested in ensuring that this one time opportunity we have to right a bad decision is grasped. The policy I have seen so far is exactly the right strategy I believe that is needed to succeed and yes there will be losers, no I don't suppose Z or RM like it one bit, but in the end the result will be a portal that has its contributors interests at heart not its shareholders.

    • 30 October 2014 11:41 AM
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    I have been a fencesitter for some time now. I have heard that Zoopla and Rightmove will increase fees for 2015 ....Zoopla just under 10% increase and Rightmove about 12%. It is this sort of thing that makes me think it is a good idea to go with otm as it, at least gives me an option that won't constantly be increasing fees. I cant help thinking that RM and Zoopla are increasing my fees next year to try and cover some of the money they will lose from those leaving them which isn't rewarding loyalty much. Also I have read your blog for sometime and, forgive me for saying, you seem to sound more desperate in every article that you write against the alternative proposition. But since you, and others opposed to it, have been writing about it in a negative stance, 1000s more have signed up. I feel that, because of the increases I may look at joining otm as a bronze member and drop Zoopla or Rightmove.

    • 30 October 2014 11:31 AM
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    There is nothing wrong with wanting to protect your position, I want to protect mine the trouble is that, in my view anyway, AM as constituted won't do it, not just because of the consequences of potential illegality. Their proposition is regressive and if it succeeds it will stifle innovation and progress. Times are changing my friend we have adapt, not desperately try to recreate the past

    • 30 October 2014 10:24 AM
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    I agree that everyone should do their due diligence but I also think AM has a duty of care to clarify these issues, if they have taken advice let's hear about it

    • 30 October 2014 10:20 AM
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    Simon that is your opinion, until argued in a court of law we will never know 100%, but with out trying to sound rude, I will take my guidance from a Barrister. Just for the record I am not signed up with OTM, but people have the choice and if it turns out to be not in their interest after all, well its their business and they should look before they leap, this thread is all supposition, hype (on both sides) and very little fact, which is of no benefit in altering descisons.

    • 30 October 2014 09:48 AM
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    I disagree, all the firms agreeing to the restriction may be caught and even if not, do you want to be associated with a business that is

    • 30 October 2014 09:37 AM
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    OT ie the actual question of anti competition laws specific business' are not targeted therefore no issues arise, that is the general response after talking to a barrister. If this is the case then there are no consequences, case closed. The personal feelings and other comments are off topic and just personal perspective, even though they are obviously very valid to the posters. As the person I spoke with said, everyone has a choice as to what they want to do, they can all make their choices and time will tell what was the best course of action. Time for some work or I won't need any portals!

    • 30 October 2014 09:30 AM
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    @Simon Where AM come in is that Zoopla has become the same beast as Rightmove only on slightly less solid ground and given firmer footings will charge in exactly the same way. I agree that most agents could do equally as well without having both and I think that Zoopla growth has been as a result of the better market and with agents not perhaps as worried about costs. so in answer to your question yes an agent could just drop one of them but that doesn't deal with the question of dominance does it. I think for most agents the aim is to break the hold of RM, supporting Z isn't going to do that because as a public listed company they have the same motivations. Choosing to list with AM effectively splits the market both Z & RM have, possibly more from Z and RM but enough to ensure both have to be more competitive when it comes to future increases. A vote for AM isn't a shirt term fix its a long term strategy and personally I would happily save the money as the market has tightened but I am prepared to divert those funds to attempt to secure my future.

    • 30 October 2014 09:02 AM
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    As I have said several times, you already have the choice to drop RM or Zoopla, something you are compelled to do by joining AM. Exactly how much business do you think AM will bring you in year 1 It's ridiculous to say that AM will be a like for like replacement for either one of the duopoly. As to the legal threat, how can you be so sure

    • 29 October 2014 21:29 PM
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    My hope is that I see OTM fragmenting the market to an extent that it will give EAs the choice to drop one or more portals without much of a problem. A world where agents aren't compelled to list on both RM and is a good world.

    And to suggest that estate agents choosing to advertise on OTM take on a legal risk is complete tosh. the EA's aren't making the rule are they

    • 29 October 2014 20:44 PM
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    At the moment Zoopla's fees are far less than Rightmove, of course they want to put them up, that's not the point. The point is AM is not the answer. As I have said, if agents can get by with one of the duopoly then why not just do it as I know many agents already have It's unnecessary and in my mind wrong to respond to the duopoly by entering into a market influencing restriction along with others.

    • 29 October 2014 18:15 PM
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    "The emergence of Zoopla shows the free market can and is dealing with the competition issue and if it stops dealing with it then I would be the first person to support taking action, just not this kind of action. "....Dealing with the competition issue, are you being serious! Zoopla have already stated that they plan to raise fees in line with rightmove, who keep raising theirs.

    • 29 October 2014 17:39 PM
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    Whether the dominance of Zoopla and Rightmove is wrong or not does not make AM right. Just to be clear, I dont want a place at their table, especially not with the exclusivity rule in place. Also, Zoopla is a recent entrant, they consolidated a bunch of failing portals and combined them with cutting edge tech to create a real competitor for Rightmove out of nowhere. The emergence of Zoopla shows the free market can and is dealing with the competition issue and if it stops dealing with it then I would be the first person to support taking action, just not this kind of action. The joke is that AM supporters say they can do without one of the duopoly, so where does AM come in Why not just drop one, as several agents have done and watch as they fight to regain the business. No, I'm afraid I have serious reservations about AM and I am not alone

    • 29 October 2014 17:22 PM
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    This is not my reading of the rules. Also there are loads of portals, not just two and no doubt many nascent propositions in the making all of which are squashed if AM achieves there goals

    • 29 October 2014 17:12 PM
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    Richard Head - why don't you post under your real name, Ian Springett, or your shortened name, Dick I am no portal supporter but equally your misinformation spreading is notorious by now. To accuse others of scaremongering when the whole Agents Mutual foundation is based on scaremongering about what portals may do in the future on pricing and other things is precious.

    • 29 October 2014 16:28 PM
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    There is a choice involved so neither RM or Z are not excluded from competition. If two of the three main portals agreed to say that you can't advertise on the third that would be a restriction of trade for sure, but the case is not as clear cut as it would seem. The same argument could be made in that private listings are not allowed on the main portals, so could it be said they are restricting the trade of Landlords to ply their wares Same with online agents If you are excluding anyone at anytime you are restricting their trade which could be said to be anti competitive, but there is a legal difference between restricting and preventing. OTM are not preventing the others trading, they are merely placing restrictions on membership, the agent therefore has a choice and the consumer, as long as they are aware and happy with the portals the agent they choose are using are not losing out either. After all there is no requirement to HAVE to be on any portals.

    • 29 October 2014 15:05 PM
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    Correction! It appears that Mr Shinerock is no longer a member of the board at Angels Media. According to Companies House, he became a director mid way through 2013 then resigned at the end of that year to be replaced by a Mr S H Black who is a director of several other Choices companies - including Choices Estate Agents Ltd, Choices Financial Services Ltd and a business called Shinerock Properties Ltd. So what's that all about

    • 29 October 2014 14:46 PM
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    @Simon. I don't think anyone would reasonably expect you not to speak out, but from what I gather you have an estate agency business, surely you can't possibly believe that the fences that firstly RM and then Zoopla after spending millions and millions to occupy some space, is a healthy one for the industry For there now to be any other players in the market would take the debt of a small African country, so I can see why OTM feel that subscribers must opt for just one of the big two, should they wish to subscribe. To do otherwise would rely on advertisers subscribing to three portals and very few would do that. From your point of view I don't know your business structure well enough to know why you feel you are not included and I'm certain that any personal issues you have had with Ian Springett would not be a bar to the future because it is NOT his business to decide that. I can understand the online only agents not liking the situation, but theirs is one of having to be seen to be operating in the same space as traditional agents or their business models flounder. Perhaps even that scenario may change one day also. But for now I would have thought that rather than trying to demand a seat at the table, if you believe that is what you want, I would have thought the first order of business would have been to watch to see if the fences surrounding the duopoly are torn down thus giving access to OTM and no doubt other players, entry to the market. Then indeed after that worrying about which ones you wish to subscribe to. I take your point about the OTM t&c's with regard this specific point, but I think that as in intelligent man I am certain you can see why its needed at its launch. My passing comment however is to reiterate that RM and Z should not control the stock of property advertised in the UK, there need to be other entrants and an estate agent supported one is the only one that has any chance of doing that.

    • 29 October 2014 13:43 PM
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    Richard, firstly thanks for having a go at this. I'm sorry if I come across as condescending, it's not meant but I have had to deal with a lot of unreasonable personal attacks. I don't think I come across as a rabble rouser or a trouble maker either, far from it, I think it takes courage and skill to speak out :-) As to your point about the AM exclusivity rule being similar to the t's & c's of other sites, it's not, they are unique as far as I know in saying 'if you advertise with us you can only advertise with one of them'

    • 29 October 2014 13:02 PM
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    Working out how to reply in sequence would take more effort than reading Simons outpourings again but Ok, firstly the legal question. What would you call it when someone posts an article warning that estate agents that decide to advertise on a website are subject to legal risk WITHOUT actually backing that up with anything other than his OWN opinion. Scaremongering, check the definition. @Shamrock, so you paid for in depth legal counsel did you, we are taking barrister opinion here not just your local solicitor! Anything other than that is meaningless. @Simon I'm not sure why you feel my comments represented a personal attack. Apart from getting your surname wrong, which was a genuine mistake. Indeed I would say that you are entitled to your opinion about OTM but what you are doing is trying to using your words to attempt to kick open a door and to incite as much support as you can to stand behind you when doing so. That is what I find distasteful. I haven't read many of your other comments because I don't really like soap box speakers, but I suspect were I to then I would find comments relating to OTM's viability etc all of which makes me wonder why so many on this site are desperate to throw stones at it. If as many posters (perhaps yourself included) seem to believe it is doomed for failure, why is there such strong feeling about not being part of it Finally in reality OTM have only done what other portals have in setting out their T&C's. Rightmove and to a lesser extent Zoopla have a number of onerous clauses in their conditions and both regually decide who they will and won't take subscriptions from. It seems to me many of your facts are being bent simply to suit your arguments and again for me if you want to canvass support for your views you should perhaps consider being a little less condescending and aggressive in your approach and certainly detach yourself from the mob rule stance you seem to be conducting so far.

    • 29 October 2014 12:54 PM
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    @ TWagent well there you go then!

    • 29 October 2014 12:41 PM
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    Philip, you are missing the point, of course it's easy to understand why the exclusivity rule is effective, that doesn't make it right or legal though, two wrongs don't make a right

    • 29 October 2014 12:21 PM
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    Nice one TWagent !!! :D

    • 29 October 2014 12:21 PM
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    Mr Head - Mr Shinerock probably gets away with posting this sort of thing because according to Companies House, his Choices Group owns shares in Angels Media (publishers of EAT) and he sits on Angels Media's board. It could be argued that he has an axe to grind - he advertises his Choices Acquisitions (http://www.choicesacquisitions.co.uk/) on Zoopla and just maybe Mr Springett won't let him advertise with OnTheMarket. Does Choices Acquisitions compete with High Street agents

    • 29 October 2014 12:16 PM
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    I find it hard to comprehend that people don't understand the principle behind the one other portal rule, it is quite obviously designed to undermine zoopla and rightmove, both of whom are taking the Onthemarket offering seriously, rightmove shares have dropped on the back of investment companies concerns, with a launch target of 5000 offices it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that between the two major portals they will see circa 250.000 properties come off there listings, so RM and ZPL wont be controlling the market and cant say that they have all the properties, so if you dont get the one other rule now, you either work for RM or ZPL or you are completely stupid ! :p

    • 29 October 2014 12:10 PM
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    that's like asking how many AM supporters have made comments, so what It's a discussion, it's supposed to include different points of view

    • 29 October 2014 12:05 PM
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    Again, you fail to address the points I have made, again it's all emotion and no reason. Just think for a moment, two wrongs don't make a right, even if you accept the duopoly as a bad thing it doesn't mean AM is a good thing. I offered Ian my input at the start, I could have been an ally, I gave AM every chance, they were offered a platform for their views in this publication, they rejected the offer, if you want to blindly follow them that's your choice but don't criticise me for saying what needs to be said

    • 29 October 2014 12:01 PM
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    Makes you wonder how many Zoopla and Rightmove related people are posting comments on here

    • 29 October 2014 11:54 AM
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    Richard Head - why do you claim this is scaremongering Are you a competition lawyer or have you taken legal advice Do you normally do so before signing a 5 year contract I certainly do and have done. It is a fact that agents mutual members are legally exposed if the competition authorities find it to be anti-competitive and they can be fined and sued for damages. There is no protection hiding behind agents mutual - if members participate in unlawful collusion through the contracts they have signed they will be held liable, not agents mutual. Mr Shinerock is simply making the point that agents should be aware before signing and more importantly the issue would go away if the exclusivity was dropped.
    .

    • 29 October 2014 11:54 AM
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    I understand how hard it must be for you to read my article, perhaps the pain made you rush. I suggest you read it again and if you can, take this opportunity to address the points I make, rather than indulging in childlike personal attacks. I have made some good points that stand on their own merits irrespective of which camp you are in, best treat them with respect

    • 29 October 2014 11:53 AM
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    Dear Glasgow Agent,

    What matters is the market share of the participating agents.. If they are seen by the CMA to have 40%+ market share in any of their markets (e.g. in the 1m+ market in Chelsea, or 250-500k house market in Glasgow), and are considered to be behaving anti-competitively and worsening choice or increasing profits through their behaviour, it is the agent who will be answerable.

    • 29 October 2014 11:51 AM
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    I have to say I have never seen and read such scaremongering stories as I have on this site. To suggest that estate agents choosing to advertise property on Onthemarket take on a legal risk in doing so is utter nonsense. Frankly I am surprised that a publication like EAT is lending a platform to men such as this Simon Shamrock. Its like listening to Abu Hamza spewing his vile and inflammatory commentary. Perhaps the man involved should be taking this said legal opinions about his own words when addressing a public platform.

    • 29 October 2014 11:44 AM
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    Wouldn't surprise me if most of the negative comments about Agents Mutual were written by Directors of Zoopla and Rightmove. I wonder if the author is on their payroll!
    Agents made Zoopla and Rightmove and they can just as easily break them. I'd urge other business owners to focus on the positives that we could all achieve by working together towards a common goal. I don't believe a better opportunity will ever come along to break the Monopoly of the big portals and if it's not broken they will be leaches to your business forever whilst still allowing online agents to advertise and belittling what professional agents do from both a lettings and sales perspective. SUPPORT AGENTS MUTUAL!

    • 29 October 2014 11:43 AM
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    I should add that our local papers are done by Johnstone Publishing and we have been informed that they have a tie-in with Zoopla and they will not be allowing Agents Mutual advertising in their publications. Quid pro quo

    • 29 October 2014 11:41 AM
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    The firm I work for has signed up for Agents Mutual. Personally, I do not see the need for a 1 other portal exclusivity clause - that seems to me something that will benefit Rightmove in the short term. We are on with Rightmove, something I would gladly change. Sadly, smarter heads than me still feel addicted to it. I do not think it would make a jot of difference to sales if we came off. We experimented with Zoopla but saw very little activity and came off, long before we signed up with Agents Mutual. I hope that Agents Mutual sales on with or without the need for an exclusivity clause, as I say, I really don't see the need. Rightmove is the only other portal we are on and hopefully that will soon change and Rightmove can become a thing of the past too. It only exists because of our stock.

    • 29 October 2014 11:27 AM
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    I dont understand the involvement of the more established high end agents with this venture. My maths makes me think that if they are paying rates similar to others then they are spending around 1%-2% of their revenues on portals. And they are willing to risk their businesses to save a few pennies There has to be more to it than that. Some are public companies and I wonder if their shareholders are aware of the business loss and financial, legal and reputation damage they are opening themselves to by being part of this lame duck venture

    • 29 October 2014 11:22 AM
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    Agent's Mutual would only be breaking competition law if it had a dominant position in the market. It is perfectly possible for agents to operate without it (as posters here suggest that they will) and so its restrictions are not an obstruction to competition. It has, however, already had a dramatic effect on the pricing offered by both of the leading portals who are both offering substantial discounts on previous deals. Moreover, our experience suggests it is not necessary to be on both portals to achieve a successful sale. We can see that both portals generate enquiries from the same buyers, so you will get them whichever portal you choose. Provided we can use one other credible portal with Agent's Mutual, we will give our clients credible advertising and give AM the time to develop public awareness and confidence. At which point - hast la vista to Rightmove and Zoopla.

    • 29 October 2014 11:17 AM
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    The exclusivity clause will only be allowable for as long as Onthemarket remains an insignificant player in the market. As soon as it is no longer insignificant then the exclusivity will become anti-competitive and illegal. So either it remains insignificant in which case it is financially damaging to those who have agreed to pay subscription fees for something that is irrelevant or it is not insignificant in which case the contracts are illegal and the members are financially exposed to fines for behaving illegally. Either way, signing up to a long term agreement for Onthemarket is a bad decision. There is much talk about the 4,000 agents who have signed letters of intent what about the 12,000 who havent For people who claim to represent the industry, the board of Onthemarket appears to be astonishingly deaf

    • 29 October 2014 11:16 AM
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    Out of interest if Agents Mutual is so bad and doomed to failure why are you talking about it and making complaints to all and sundry. The reason is that you are all scared witless about this and want it closed down before it starts. More reason why it should continue. If people do not want to join because they do not like it then do not join, no one is forcing anyone to do anything. GROW UP business is a tough world. Why do all the bleating sheep form their own 'Agents Mutual' GO ON I DARE YOU

    • 29 October 2014 11:11 AM
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    I HAVE taken legal advice and agree that the exposure of any agent that signs up to Agents Mutual is significant which is one of the many reasons why my firm has NOT signed up. Whilst the documents claim that the liability of members is limited by guarantee it fails to mention that those agent firms that are members and party to those agreements could be subject to substantial fines (up to a maximum of 10% of their annual UK turnover) as well as being pursued for unlimited damages under UK competition law. I have no doubt that over the term of the proposed agreements there will be multiple challenges from online agents, new portals and others and have no intention of subjecting my firm either to the crazy idea of taking my clients properties off the main portals or to the legal risk!

    • 29 October 2014 11:09 AM
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    I sat in a meeting of agents in my local area yesterday. Our Agents Mutual rep proceeded to thank everyone in the room for having sent their contracts back. I - and at least 2 others who I know in the room have not sent contracts back. The rep would have known this and yet was prepared to lie in front of the entire room to get people signed up.

    I am pretty ashamed that I didn't say anything, but they are definitely doing anything they can to get people signed up.

    As much as I have applauded the efforts of Agents Mutual from the start, I have heard too many lies and changes of direction from them to continue to give it my support.

    To be fair, I had been warned by a local agent that it would go this way with Ian Sprigett in charge - its such a shame.

    • 29 October 2014 10:49 AM
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    Seems like there are a lot of unanswered questions that are being dodged by Mr Springett like i) how many agents have signed contracts, not letters of intent ii) how is the exclusivity clause not considered to be anti-competitive iii) why will buyers use onthemarket instead of zoopla, rightmove and primelocation iv) how will they get even close to matching the number of enquiries from the main portals and, if they won't as Mr Springett seems to acknowledge will take years then how can he justify asking agents to damage their businesses in the meantime and v) why not start without the exclusivity and add it later

    • 29 October 2014 10:47 AM
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    Agent's Mutual has been a badly thought through scheme from the start. A handful of agents has led some, but not many, others in the industry to blindly follow like lambs to the slaughter. It may well be that Savills and Knight Frank wish to risk their business and the reputational consequences of being part of a cosy cartel but I doubt they have thought through fully where this may lead and will live to regret this. I applaud Simon Shinerock for being a voice of sanity and truth amongst the hype and misinformation. I would encourage Ian Springett and his followers to take heed and drop the exclusivity provision without delay.

    • 29 October 2014 10:00 AM
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