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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

OnTheMarket's rebel agents receive letters from Agents' Mutual lawyers

A number of agencies that joined OnTheMarket but subsequently stopped listing properties on the portal have received letters from a legal firm acting for Agents Mutual. 

The letters, tailored to different clients, say that the firms are not listing properties in accordance with the terms of listing agreements reached with Agents Mutual, the parent company of OnTheMarket. 

The letters also demand payment for membership fees that are alleged to be in arrears: one agent who contacted Estate Agent Today says he is expected to pay around £7,000.

The letters - dated this week - ask for payments of the alleged arrears within the next 14 days and say legal proceedings will commence to recover the sums if payment is not forthcoming in that period. The solicitors warn that the cost of the action to recover the sums will increase the alleged debt owed.

The agents who have received the letters - at least five known to Estate Agent Today but possibly many more - are told that they are also required to pay future membership fees as they fall due throughout the rest of the contract, and that any additional membership obligations set out in their contracts must be adhered to.

OnTheMarket has declined to say how many agents it is now pursuing and the volume of money it intends to extract from them in total. 

But a spokesperson told us: "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."

Recent traffic figures reported by Rightmove and Zoopla have shown both heavily consolidating their dominance.

Rightmove reported last week that visits to its site in the early part of the year, up to early March, was up 14 per cent on the same period of 2015. There were a record 1.3 billion visits to the portal in 2015, a rise of 18 per cent or 200m over 2014. A record 49.8m leads were generated for advertisers - mostly agents - compared with 42.8m the year before, representing a rise of 16 per cent.

Zoopla says it recorded a 61 per cent leap in appraisal leads in February compared to the same month last year, and generated over 30,000 instruction opportunities last month alone. General traffic to its Zoopla and PrimeLocation sites was up 9.0 per cent compared to February 2015, with over 50m visits during the month. 

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    Shame really, the rightmove/zoopla dominance should be smashed - and this was the best attempt.

    The main portals now will track each others pricing and keep lifting their prices and forever increasing their already BLOATED margins.

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    I like cake.

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    I think the real question here is who doesn't like cake.

    Rob  Davies

    Everyone loves cake, that's a given, but what do you think about this latest AM/OTM story?

     
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    i think he is implying that those agents who have signed up and then renaged on their contracts are trying to have their cake and it it.

     
    Rob  Davies

    Ah, right. Went straight over my head.

    Too subtle for me.

    Although his subsequent comments slightly make me doubt his witty intent in the above :)

     
  • Rob  Davies

    OTM getting a tad desperate?

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    To be fair - any company who are owed thousands of pounds in fees and have contracts with their customers would take this sort of action. It's not particularly desperate or unconventional I don't think.

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    • T Y
    • 07 April 2016 10:23 AM

    It's interesting seeing the change in customers. On it's first launch, I was often asked if we could market with OTM as well as the others. It's something I haven't been asked in months now.

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    Consumer awareness of the OTM proposition is near nil.

    I would say that anecdotally in Manchester around 1 in 20 have heard of it but only mention it when lead by the nose to think if other websites they use apart from RM ZP or PM.

    The company though cannot be considered to be acting illegitamatley for pursuing non-payment of fees, show me an agent that has never pursued a vendor for the same.

  • Kristjan Byfield

    It's true that it's fair for a company to pursue those under contract. Those that took the chance on OTM took a risk but, had it worked, would have been rewarded with long term low fees. However, it is also time for OTM to accept it has failed in its sole aim of destabilising the market monopoly and to consider shutting. What I fear will happen is, in a desperate attempt to just stay open, OTM will eventually drop the 'one other portal' rule and, in doing so, will compromise on the very reason of their creation- adding another marketing cost to agents rather than its sole objective to reduce this. Some businesses fail, and property portals fail more than most, but I just hope OTM has the decency to accept it hasn't worked and it quietly and politely shuts its doors. But please, fellow agents, if they do drop the rule please don't be mugs and pay them or sign up. Remember portals don't create opportunity they just funnel them.

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    we like to party. we like we like to party.

     
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    Three-tired cakes with people on top usually attract the most attention.

    It may not taste the best though.

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  • Gregory Moulton

    In my opinion OTM have failed to deliver the leads agents expected when they signed up and OTM have charged about double what Zoopla are charging, when Zoopla are delivering a lot of leads in our area recently. Due to the failure of OTM to deliver leads, they have failed to hold up their side of the contract in my opinion. If any other agents are feeling this way feel free to contact me as I'm sure we have more power together than alone.

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    If the agents concerned communicated this to otm rather than just not paying their bills the dialogue would likely stand them better come any tribunal / court case.

     
  • Mike Heath

    Agents 'mutual' - your are having a laugh! They have hugely failed to deliver what they set out to do and I hold them in breach of their contract for nil performance after 1 year of advertising. We didn't get a single buyer or tenant let alone a lead of any quality - no one has even heard of them!

    When did we all get a vote being 'mutual' to say we would be happy for agents in less affluent areas to be signed up for £50 or for free on some areas. Why are the agents that supported them from the beginning paying 10x the amount - it's absolutely shocking. They are trying to run a cartel and I for one will fight this all the way, especially as it jeopardises our business. Springett can go take a run and jump!

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    Why did you join up in the first place Mike, and on what terms - the 5 year deal?

    Mike Heath

    We signed up in the hope a 'mutual' portal was being created for traditional high street agents. Agents 'mutual' are completely in breach and have changed the terms of the agreement. We have all been lied to and I for one would like me £6k after 1 year of advertising and not getting a single buyer or tenant. A year is a fair time to see if someone works or not, it has been a massive flop and i am not prepared to put our business at risk and wasting £500 a month on something not fit for purpose!

     
    Mike Heath

    We signed up in the hope a 'mutual' portal was being created for traditional high street agents. Agents 'mutual' are completely in breach and have changed the terms of the agreement. We have all been lied to and I for one would like me £6k after 1 year of advertising and not getting a single buyer or tenant. A year is a fair time to see if someone works or not, it has been a massive flop and i am not prepared to put our business at risk and wasting £500 a month on something not fit for purpose!

     
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    I will tell you why Paul... we were sold the dream but bought the nightmare, OTM were full of promise, they were going to be no.2 in 18 month have 7500 members by January 2015 traffic deals, none of which they have delivered on, they have let agents in for free with a letter of intent(breach of contract) none of the potential clients we questioned up until Sept last year were aware of OTM , there terms of contract would be deemed unfair terms in a court, yet they are happy to unhinge their offering by starting legal action, who in their right mind would join them now, why would anyone take the risk knowing they are ineffective, they have dragged a few suckers in to give positive reviews, but still they are invisible to vendors and landlords.... I think a class action would kick OTM into touch !

    Mike Heath

    Thanks Philip.

    I read this on another article which I entirely agree with :

    You are right and the principle of contract is sacrosanct thank goodness. The problem for Agents Mutual - and one that is going to bite them massively over the coming weeks and months - is that they have misled many of the agents who signed these 5 year contracts.

    I looked yesterday at the paperwork for an agent on a 5 year contract. The Info Memorandum which is an official Agents Mutual document that set out the strategy and which was referred to in this agent's contract very clearly states that agents who committed prior to launch would get the best rates.

    Their sales team are now running (and phoning) around the country signing up agents at £50 per office - a level of discount which is huge and puts 5 year contracted members at a significant competitive disadvantage.

    This is an act of gross stupidity on OTM's part as any agent who signed 5 years can now claim that they were misrepresented to on pricing and as such OTM are in material breach of their contract. OTM's response to this could be to offer them the same £50, but the agent can they claim that again they never would have signed as there is no way a portal can compete with the established portals with a sub rate of £50 per office.

     
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