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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”