A member of the public has submitted a complaint on portal juggling to the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team following a recent Sunday Times article.
Previous complaints on the issue submitted to NTSEAT are thought to have come as a result of research by agents and data companies, and this is believed to be one of the first from the public.
Estate Agent Today has seen the complaint which concerns an agency in Gloucestershire.
The complainant’s research was conducted on Rightmove around May11 and revealed;
- the agency was selling 42 properties;
- 28 were added on May 3, of which 14 were labelled as sold [stc] within a maximum of three days;
- another eight were added on May 4 of which five were labelled as sold [stc] within a maximum of three days;
- only two properties were shown as having been added before May 3;
- six properties were shown as having been added or reduced from May 5 onwards.
“I believe that some of these properties were listed by this agent at an earlier date” the complainant says, who believes the turnover rate of properties from this particular firm is markedly different from its rival agents in the same area.
Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket have consistently stated they are aware of the portal juggling issue, but believe it to be relatively low-level; each portal has a compliance team which attempts to spot the practice, contact the agent concerned and take remedial action.
Meanwhile NTSEAT, in a letter to campaigning estate agent Chris Wood of PDQ Property in Cornwall, says it has held meetings with industry regulators on the issue, including the Competition and Markets Authority. It says it has also met with Rightmove.
In response, Wood is called on the NTSEAT to “make a clear and definitive public statement that such activities are a breach of ASA regulations, CPR and, that any results [or] data or figures obtained from those activities which may be used to obtain business or investment by deception, is fraud.”
Wood says such a statement “would be a huge deterrent to agents, developers and portals alike and be widely welcomed as a positive move” in the light of portal juggling having been the subject of wider public debate through the Sunday Times article and being raised in the House of Commons by Derek Thomas MP.