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Money laundering scandal wouldn't happen with online agents - claim

The chief executive of online agency easyProperty says the money laundering scandal exposed in Channel 4’s ‘From Russia With Cash’ would not happen with online estate agents because the commissions they earn are uniform and low.

Rob Ellice says the traditional agency process of charging a percentage commission of a  sale means the more expensive the property, the more agents earn “and some traditional estate agents ... use unscrupulous tactics to sell properties no matter what the cost.”

He says it is too often the case that reports of what he terms “corrupt” high street estate agents doing whatever is necessary to maximise commissions, regardless of the implications. “But bad practices, including high commission percentages and hidden property fees, reflect badly not just on those ‘corrupt’ estate agents but on everyone. Transparency and fairer pricing is needed to overhaul the industry” he says.

He says online agents offering transparent flat fees are “demystifying” the sales and letting process, empowering owners and buyers “so they can now challenge this unacceptable behaviour.”

And Ellice insists that “flat and transparent fees promote ethical practice and remove any incentive to prioritise one property over another for large commissions like we saw in Channel 4’s documentary.”

“We have strict anti-fraud policies in place, as should all agents. At easyProperty, every property and tenant is subject to numerous fraud checks and all inbound phone calls are also qualified through various security checks” says Ellice. 

“While it would be impossible to say that every person with fraudulent intentions will be caught at this stage, the strong values and ethical practices promoted at easyProperty ensures that behaviours such as those observed in From Russia With Cash will never eventuate.”

  • Rob  Davies

    Ah, easyProperty, where have you been? We've barely heard anything from you for the last few months, is that because you've got nothing to crow about or you're deliberately trying to keep a low-profile?

    I'm not sure online agents are more resistant to scams, corruption and money laundering - these people can find ways around anything - but I see where Rob Ellice is coming from.

    Need to catch up with the programme at some point. Sounds interesting, if a little sensationalist and unrepresentative.

  • Sceptical As Always

    my ears are hurting due to excessive trumpet noise.

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    Doesn't he also run a high street agency?

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  • Richard White

    The major concern regarding financial crime and property is nothing to do with the fees and everything to do with the actual funds being used to purchase the whole property. Your serious money launderer doesn't give two hoots about a few grand in fees. I'd imagine that online agents are probably more susceptible to being duped on the basis that they don't have first-hand interaction with the client. They have no 'eyes and ears' with which to carry our reasonability checks. Non 'face to face' business in Financial Services world requires more security checks and for this exact reason self congratulatory crowing of this kind seems to be borne from a complete misunderstanding of the issues.

  • Algarve  Investor

    Indeed, Richard. I'd say online agents were at greater risk of being duped, given the nature of their business. Most traditional agents have a significant online presence, too, but I'd guess much of the confidential, need-to-know stuff is done in branch.

    I'm sure online agents, in the main, have very thorough security checks, but it just seems more likely that a major transaction carried out online would be more susceptible to scams and money-laundering rings.

    It's very hard to stamp out completely, but things can be made as difficult as possible for these people. However, if agents are willing to help money launderers along the way for a few extra quid in their pocket, then we have some serious problems, as From Russia with Cash so aptly showed us.

  • Trevor Mealham

    I was chatting to some easyProperty staff at an Expo a while back. Many didnt seem that knowledgeable. My guess is that most wouldn't pick up on a AML situation that would require a SAR being submitted. Met Rob. Decent enough chap. But not confident his staff would pick up AML


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