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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

CMA is watching estate agents, warns competition lawyer

The estate agency industry is “in the sights of” the Competitions and Markets Authority according to a competition lawyer.

“All the evidence suggests that the industry is in regulators’ sights and could be next in line for more regulatory attention if it doesn’t take measures to ensure its house is in order – and seen to be in order” says Michael Dean, partner and head of the European Union, competition and regulatory practice with Scottish firm Maclay Murray and Spens LLP. 

He says that following the recent case involving a number of English estate agents and their local association, as well as a newspaper publisher - leading to a fine of more than £735,000 by the Competition and Markets Authority - it was clear that there is a risk of anti-competition arrangements being struck “through the relatively convivial relationships that are the norm in the industry.

Writing in The Scotsman newspaper this week, he says that in a typical regional estate agency sector, many staff at competing agencies will know each other – especially senior partners whose paths will have crossed many times over the years.

“Where there are close commercial and personal relationships, even among competitors, it is easy to gravitate to arrangements intended to benefit that small group – but that is where danger lies” he says. 

“It is essential all firms ... ensure staff are aware of the law because the next time a case comes up, the fines are likely to be even higher. Staff – particularly senior partners, those dealing with advertisers and those negotiating with large clients, must know where the danger lies. They must be in a position to steer a conversation clear of anything that could be perceived as agreeing terms of business or ‘industry practices’ that in any way relate to the sales process” Dean warns.

  • Trevor Mealham

    Agree. Sad thing is that the cartel case mentioned isnt too disimilar to a large group at the moment whi run subscriptions and ban many other agents in the market simoly as they choose to also put consumers properties in other main portals, or because other agents are online only.


    Government bodies are embracing the web to allow consumers to report rookie agents.

  • Trevor Mealham

    There is a lot of legislation out there now that has appered in just recent months/years, that many agents are unaware of. Many will get caught out for silly or ignorant breaches where training or compliance just isnt happening.

  • Simon Shinerock

    As I have underlined from the very start of the Agents Mutual venture, the regulators move at their own pace. When I was a kid my mum told me that if she said black was white and night was day then it was. It took me a while to realise she was not being literal but trying to get me to do as I was told. It didn't work then and it hasn't worked now. Black is black, white is white and if it's day and it looks like night, best examine where you have buried your head.

  • Algarve  Investor

    @Trevor Mealham - surely, then, that is even greater reason for proper training being put in place for new recruits and for people who have been doing the job for years? If new legislation and regulations are constantly being introduced, it makes sense for agents to keep up to date with this by going to training sessions, say, once every six months.

    Is that too much to ask?

  • Kelly Evans

    "Writing in The Scotsman newspaper this week, he says that in a typical regional estate agency sector, many staff at competing agencies will know each other – especially senior partners whose paths will have crossed many times over the years."

    What is wrong with this? Surely rival agencies being cordial and friendly with each other is a good thing, no? I think all these conspiracy theories about cartels and anti-competition rackets is pure paranoia. People seeing what they want to see.

  • Richard White

    Estate Agencies in 'People in the same business, know each other' shocker.

  • Trevor Mealham

    Kelly - maybe your not seeing the bigger picture.

    Tonight I'll be with 20 agents (different companies) many do work together which is industry and consumer healthy to achieving greater client property exposure to bring best B2B apllicants and offers in.

    But im there as the agents have asked to look closer at current property sales guidance changes Trading Standards are bringing in.

    Looking closer, gov powers that be are also using the web to allow Joe Consumer to log agent complaints more.

    As for cartels. Im sure the Three County agencies and the Trinity wish their £700k fines really hadn't been for real.

    At the mo, in similar light there is a bigger similar instance restraining other agents in the market, just because they are online only or choose to usr more portals.

    Similar restraints got the Trinity group and three county agents in hot water.

  • Trevor Mealham

    Kelly - maybe your not seeing the bigger picture.

    Tonight I'll be with 20 agents (different companies) many do work together which is industry and consumer healthy to achieving greater client property exposure to bring best B2B apllicants and offers in.

    But im there as the agents have asked to look closer at current property sales guidance changes Trading Standards are bringing in.

    Looking closer, gov powers that be are also using the web to allow Joe Consumer to log agent complaints more.

    As for cartels. Im sure the Three County agencies and the Trinity wish their £700k fines really hadn't been for real.

    At the mo, in similar light there is a bigger similar instance restraining other agents in the market, just because they are online only or choose to usr more portals.

    Similar restraints got the Trinity group and three county agents in hot water.

  • Trevor Mealham

    Sorry Kelly. On train. Bad internet. Dble sent

  • Neil Briggs

    Agreed, Richard. I don't really see how this is news, to be honest. Estate agents in the same village/town/city speaking to each other on friendly terms, what's the big deal? I understand the whole anti-competition/cartel argument, but I think that's only true in a very few cases.

    We're always hearing about petty squabbles between estate agents and rivalries getting way out of hand, I would have thought this level of civility would have been welcomed.

  • Trevor Mealham

    Article reads: . ....... arrangements intended to benefit that small group.

    Equally this could refer to a group or 'type of agents' being disadvantaged as was equally the case. ......

    No media be it a portal or paper should collude with a group of agents and unfair rules to harm others in the property industry. Agents should not be disadvantaged unfairly. Such service providers should respect agents need to comply with the Estate Agents Act 1979: Which centres around acting in the best interest (not restraints) of consumers.

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