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Agents' network asks CMA about role of NAEA on Agents' Mutual board

The Independent Network of Estate Agents has written to the Competition and Markets Authority, raising the issue of the NAEA’s managing director serving as a director of Agents’ Mutual, the parent company of portal OnTheMarket. 

Trevor Mealham, the INEA’s chief executive, says Mark Hayward has a potential conflict being a representative of the NAEA which acts on behalf of all agents, and yet being on the board of Agents‘ Mutual which excludes some agents from listing on its portal.

Mealham has emailed Ann Pope, the CMA’s senior antitrust director and one of the authors of last week’s open letter to agents from the authority, warning them of the danger of colluding to choose portals to support or ‘drop’ in line with OTM policy.


Mealham has also met with the CMA in the past, to discuss his belief that Agents’ Mutual and OnTheMarket are structured as separate companies which may act in concert against some commercial interests. 

The 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’. 

Mealham says this does not make it a portal. But OnTheMarket last year told agencies that listing on the INEA - if they already listed on a major portal as well as OTM - would  contravene the ‘only one other portal rule’.  An email sent by an OTM spokeswoman to INEA said: “OnTheMarket has decided that the INEA is a competing portal.”

Meanwhile OTM has been criticised by business newspaper City AM as a result of the Competition and Market Authority’s open letter.

An editorial in the paper has likened OnTheMarket to Luddites “eventually overwhelmed by power looms” following the release of the CMA’s open letter.

City AM - which in the past has published columns written by Agents’ Mutual leaders - wrote: “Anyone with even a passing interest in technology and its history could have predicted this one: just as the Luddites were eventually overwhelmed by power looms, online property portal OnTheMarket was destined to stumble” says the newspaper.

It went on: ”And lo, ... it came to pass: the Competition and Markets Authority effectively took a sledgehammer to the site’s business model by warning online property portals which prevent those listing homes on them from also listing on rival sites that they could be breaching competition law.”

At the end of the editorial it concludes: “It is hard to avoid drawing parallels with black cab drivers’ reaction to Uber: rather than innovating, the cabbies chose the Luddite approach, complaining vociferously, launching a vicious Twitter campaign and lobbying for Transport for London to introduce onerous regulations.

“[The] warning from the CMA may as well have been a warning to anyone reacting to advances in technology with denial and bullying tactics: protectionism doesn’t work. Innovation will always win out.”

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    Reputation and trust are so important within any service industry. Reading articles like the one in City AM is really disappointing. If any significant evidence emerges of collusion we shouldn't underestimate how broadly this story is likely to be covered in the consumer press. I think the NAEA (and their membership) would be best served if they were out of this failing project.

  • Trevor Mealham

    Well said Steve. NAEA should revise and look at what allows an agent to be an agent and accept that supporting AM/OTM a restraint cartel like collaboration goes against EU competition law by restricting other lawful traders.

    NAEA support both 1. online only and 2. traditional Hg St models. As such they SHOULD NOT support a dual platform that restrains lawful property traders entry.

  • Trevor Mealham

    Just seen this on linkedin:


    Oliver Hill: In our local area this is exactly what has happened. *** I was copied into many emails with regards to what portal to come off (Zoopla if anyone's interested) because of this it made perfect business sense for us to stay with the big two as it became a bit of a USP for us and its worked well. off topic a little but a reply to your comment Gavin, landlords and Vendors have been advertising their own properties on Rightmove and Zoopla for a while now with the help of easy rent, purple bricks and tepilo but in my personally experience landlords and Vendors that do this do struggle to sell or let due to a couple of issue. They always over value their own home, along with the worst marketing photos (saw a screen shot of the house from an iphone the other day!). Will be really interesting to see if the CMA do hand out any fines.


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    Mealham "belief that Agents’ Mutual and OnTheMarket are structured as separate companies which may act in concert against some commercial interests. "

    What does this sentence mean?
    If they were not separate companies how would they act differently?

  • Trevor Mealham

    @ Hafsid Jalal

    AM has 9 directors. OTM has two registrations and is registered at Companies House as a different Company with 2 directors.

    Thus Am and OTM colluding is cartel like due to restraints on other traders that they place bans on being: 1. online only agents 2. other digital platforms (portals/MLS)


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