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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

OnTheMarket saga; 'open letter' agent is latest to receive legal warning

The agent who last year wrote a controversial ‘open letter’ about OnTheMarket has now received a letter demanding she pay alleged arrears by the middle of next week, and conforms with the so-called one other portal rule.

Lisa Arcari, who runs a single-branch agency called My Place In Cornwall based in the market town of Wadebridge, received the letter from Eversheds law firm on behalf of Agents’ Mutual: on its website, Eversheds says it “operates at the leading edge of business”, claims it is recognised “as a Global Elite Law Firm” that “regularly advise on billion dollar deals and high profile cases.”

As with some letters which we reported on last week, this correspondence asks Arcari to pay alleged arrears and to conform with OTM’s ‘one other portal’ rule. She has 14 days from the date of the letter - which gives little more than a week now. 

However, Arcari insists that she wrote a termination letter to OTM and insists it is the portal rather than her or other rebel Agents Mutual members breaching contractual obligations.

“OnTheMarket is a disgrace. It’s demanding money with menaces. The portal has breached its own contract by setting out a schedule of fees for agents joining at the start and saying that agents who joined later would have to pay more - when the reverse appears to have actually happened” she had told Estate Agent Today.

Arcari says any change to that process should have been agreed by Agents’ Mutual’s members - including herself - but that no such discussion took place. 

Now she says she is happy to discuss with any other agents in a similar position how they can collectively take forward their dialogue with OnTheMarket.

Last October, in her original open letter, Arcari said that she had been taken in by OTM’s sales pitch. She accused the portal of not responding to complaints, and explained that she could not see the benefit to members like her of OTM’s international sales service.

At the time of her original open letter OnTheMarket responded that it was sorry “this individual agent” was dissatisfied. 

In response to Estate Agent Today enquiries OTM now says that with regard to alleged unpaid subscription fees: "It is standard practice for any company to seek outstanding payments from customers when they are in arrears. We work to ensure that everyone in contract with us meets their obligations for the benefit of all members of Agents' Mutual." 

On the subject of accusations that OTM breached its own verbal promises regarded later-joining agents paying more than launch members, an OTM spokeswoman says: “No comment.”

  • Simon Shinerock

    The board of OTM would do well to examine the concept of 'enforceability' before going further down this path. There are countless thousands of acts of Parliament on the statute books but only a tiny number have the force of law, including large parts of the estate agents act 1979 BTW. It is most unlikely that OTM will be able to enforce the loyalty of their disappointed members by using the law, it's more likely to have the reverse affect and encourage the fence sitters to join the rebellion because a rebellion us what this is. When you consider the motivation and the strategy the current situation was inevitable, after all, how can it be the right strategy in defeating a monopoly to take down its only credible competitor? The fact that OTM is failing is not a cause for much emotion but the fact their existence has turned Rightmove into what it is today makes my blood boil

    Fake Agent

    "The fact that OTM is failing is not a cause for much emotion but the fact their existence has turned Rightmove into what it is today makes my blood boil."

    But whose fault is that? By weakening Zoopla - albeit temporarily - they were always going to strengthen RM, who have only got bigger and stronger since OTM's launch. They stayed out of any petty squabbles, they avoided making any comment and they avoided losing anywhere near the same agents as Zoopla.

    OTM gave Zoopla a bloody nose for a few weeks, but they were never genuine challengers for that No 2 portal spot. If they accepted that, they'd probably be doing quite now. And wouldn't be having all this negative PR. The fact they didn't - and persisted with the other portal rule and reducing their sign-up costs to lure in other agents - is going to cost them dearly in the long-run.

    Rightmove - and to a lesser degree Zoopla - are now bigger than the property industry. We have to accept that. Sellers and landlords want to be listed on one of the big two, simple as that. In many cases, they want to be listed on both. Out in the public, brand recognition for Zoopla and RM is high. For OTM, it's null and void. That's the difference. That will take years to change. You'll almost certainly never achieve it.

    Working out ways of getting RM to reduce their prices, or having sensible, rational discussions with the portals, would have been better than the sideshow that OTM has come.

    I think the founding principles of OTM were reasonably good and noble - although let's not pretend there wasn't vested interests in its implementation - but the way it's been run since has left a lot to be desired. I think Springett has to answer some difficult questions - he's gone suspiciously quiet in the last few months, hasn't he? I think many smaller agencies, lured in by the big promises OTM made, now feel extremely let down. That's something AM/OTM need to address as a matter of urgency.

     
  • Trevor Mealham

    Agents have to abide by CPRs and all businesses have to abide by BPR's. AM/OTM dually cartel like enforces restraints that after fair time could be seen as being poor consumer representation. As Simon says, The EAA1979 is about agents acting in clients best interest. For AM/OTM to place cartel like restraints such as 1. banning online only agents and 2. their 'one other portal rule' then I think Eversheds should do more research on what an agent should be doing under government regulations rather than AM/OTM want rules in consumer best interest.

    If agents feel that giving AM/OTM a go has resulted in restraints restricting best practice for consumers and other businesses they may be acting for then AM/OTM may be breaking BPR's themselves.

    The HOWEVER though is that as Z hasn't acted too fast, in many google searches for property. OTM paid for advertising often appears above RM and Z searches. as such have some of the big AM/OTM competitors done too little too late in that OTM is hitting high on may searches now.

    The saga continues.

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