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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

OnTheMarket: consultant sets up action group of disillusioned member agents

An industry consultant says he has been asked to form an action group OnTheMarket member agents who are disillusioned with the performance of the portal and want to withdraw from it. 

Iain White - who has been in the industry for over three decades as a former managing director at Romans for 22 years and a former director at Countrywide Thames - says he is helping the group because several of his current clients who are OTM members are anxious to leave, or have left and have received legal letters. 

“I’ve already been contacted by a significant number of agents, of which several have received letters from solicitors acting for Agents’ Mutual” says White.

Last week we reported that lawyers acting for Agents’ Mutual, the parent company of OnTheMarket, had written to a number of OTM members. In the letters these agents were described as having taken down listings, and/or allegedly not paid their subscription fees, and/or were advertising their inventory on more than one other major portal in contravention of OnTheMarket membership policy.

Now White has told Estate Agent Today that an action group would be much more powerful in negotiating with Agents’ Mutual, and could pool resources if a legal challenge to the portal were required. 

“I’m led to believe that there could be grounds for legal action against OTM based on the pledge that many early-joiners received, saying they would receive beneficial rates. Fees to the portal were apparently going to rise after its launch and after they joined - in effect that were guaranteed they would always be paying the lowest subscription rates as an inducement to signing up early.

“However, we believe that many of the most recent recruits pay only £50 per month, far below the rate of earlier members. This as a breach by OTM of their own contract” he says. He claims this renders OTM potentially liable to having to pay back the original loan notes and all subscriptions paid to date. 

“I’m certainly not seeking to encourage agents to not pay fees which are legitimate. But several agents have written termination letters - some citing the apparent breach of contract by Agents’ Mutual - but these have been effectively ignored” he says. 

“Some of these agents are now being chased for payments which I believe wouldn’t stand the test of legal action in light of OTM breaching its contract, offering lower subscriptions to new members. This contradicts verbal promises made by OTM and the legal contract that early adopters signed was very explicit that all newcomers beyond launch date would pay higher fees” he adds. 

He says anyone wishing to discuss the action group should contact him at iain.white@btinternet.com.

Estate Agent Today asked OnTheMarket for its view on the claim that some agents believed recent £50 subscription fees may invalidate earlier contracts struck at higher monthly rates. The portal’s response last evening was: “No comment.”

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    Well done to this website for championing this cause, and well done to Iain White for helping these small businesses. It is a horrible mess that needs to be cleared up. From some of the conversations that I have had personally there is a lot of bad blood against Agents Mutual now so I think we will have some very motivated agents wanting to take them down.

    Its amazing to think that if they can successfully make this case they they may be able to get their subscriptions and original investment back (although obviously that will only work for the first few as OTM will soon run out of cash and fold). What a result that would be for them.

    I think that both the NAEA and Property Industry Eye have a lot to answer for. Both have given OnTheMarket a semblance of respectability and I have no doubt that led to a lot of agents getting involved when they would otherwise have stayed away. PIE is a private organisation so it is up to them if they want to pander to their advertisers, but the NAEA's motivations are much more unclear. Surely it is time for some sort of statement from them as this shambles of a project falls apart and yet they remain on the board??

    If these allegations are proven to be true (i.e. that Agents Mutual have misled their members en masse), then they deserve everything that they get.

  • Property  Guru

    Yep, hit with a bill, We informed AM we will not be uploading our properties and please cancel the services just one month later after major business losses. We cancelled for Zoopla for one month and lost over 30 leads. 25% revenue down. Clearly was a major gamble but not something any business is willing to sustain for their benefit. They also said we could leave at anytime yet kept on billing, no demand letters, no formal requests, juts straight to legal demand. Why should I pay £177 pcm when others are paying £50 pcm and even free ins some cases. Our lawyer has looked at he contract and found no "termination terms" :) and as such more news will be to follow. "contracts must be fair" . They should be working with us and not against us. They should allow all us to use them and he other 2 and then when they grow and prove to be a business asset then start doing the asking or demanding. I would much rather pay my money with the other 2 then make a loss. I bet all the agents that got demands for money would jump on board if they stop demands and allow us to join them WITH the other 2. Bet then AM will do well. WIn Win.

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    We are very glad we didnt buy into OTM even when they offered us, even when they kept coming back at us with reduced rates I could never justify losing the coverage and leads Zoopla afforded our clients.
    I found it elitist personally

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