OnTheMarket has written to a number of members of the Independent Network of Estate Agents, saying they should remove properties from the INEA website to conform with the controversial ‘only one other portal’ rule.
INEA operates a multi-listing business-to-business service for sales and lettings agents allowing them to upload properties to a central pool of listings which can be accessed by members who then operate as ‘sub-agents’.
The agencies contacted by OTM have been told that listing on the INEA website - if they already list on one other major portal in addition to OnTheMarket - is in contravention of the ‘only one other portal rule’.
An email sent by an OTM spokeswoman to INEA says: “OnTheMarket has decided that the INEA is a competing portal.”
The INEA website refers to “INEA’s Property Portal” on a link, but the association’s chief executive Trevor Mealham says: “The INEA platform is not a true portal and thus should not come under their one other portal rule. INEA is seen as a co-broker, as is common in other countries like the USA, Canada, Germany and Spain.”
He has written to the agents contacted by OTM saying that using his platform to access sub-agents would give greater potential access to leads and greater exposure. “OTM appears very low traffic compared to other main portals” he says.
Because INEA requires three months’ notice from members, listings of the agencies in question will remain in place until the notice period expires, he adds.
“My guess is that the year end is nearing and Agents’ Mutual/OnTheMarket are taking desperate steps, before more agents leave them” says Mealham.
He has been a long-term critic of the new portal and Agents’ Mutual - its parent company - says that in his opinion the only one other portal rule is a restraint that may breach the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008.
Mealham says he now intends to raise the issue with the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team and the Competitions and Markets Authority, regarding what he describes as Agents’ Mutual’s and OnTheMarket’s “colluding restraints” against competition and consumers’ best interests.