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50-plus rebel agents release details of legal case against OnTheMarket

Over 50 estate agents in the rebel OnTheMarket Action Group have released details of a letter sent to the portal’s parent company, Agents’ Mutual. 

The document is formally known as a Letter Before Action and sets out the agents' grievances. It was written by Ian Carson of Tollers LLP, the rebel agents' lawyers, and addressed to OTM and Agents’ Mutual chief executive Ian Springett.

A statement from the action group, summarising the letter, says:


“The estate agents believe they were misled by Agents Mutual over promises made on joining that their membership package, in particular their subscription fees would be more favourable than that offered to members who joined at a later date. 

“The letter sets out the factual background of events before and after the launch of the OnTheMarket portal and then goes on to explain how these events have damaged their businesses. 

“Some examples of the conduct engaged in by Agents Mutual cited in the letter are as follows: 

“- Offering new joiners a twelve month or three-year contract rather than a five-year contract;

“- A flat fee of only £50 per month per office regardless of volume or location;

“- The option to join as a “subscriber” rather than a member, allowing new joiners to leave at any time without future liability;

“- Instances where Agents Mutual have removed agent’s properties from OnTheMarket.

“The Action Group members are seeking a number of remedies from Agents Mutual including rescission of their contracts and/or damages.”

A statement from Ian Carson of Tollers LLP says: “As the Letter Before Action demonstrates, our clients are very serious about their claims against Agents Mutual. It is hoped that matters can be resolved without recourse to litigation and we have invited Agents Mutual to attend a mediation. However, our clients are serious about pursuing legal action should it become necessary.”

And a statement from Nick Crayson, managing director of Crayson Estate Agents and a member of the action group, says: “As an early adopter and supporter of Agents Mutual, we made a significant commitment of time and money to helping OnTheMarket become a viable competitor to Rightmove and Zoopla.

“However, the way Agents Mutual have treated me and my business dismays me and so I am committed to ensuring that they are held to account.”

The group says OTM Gold or Silver members who consider they have been affected by these issues could join the rebels.

An OnTheMarket spokeswoman told Estate Agent Today this morning: "We understand that some agents are considering legal action against Agents' Mutual for alleged misrepresentations made in relation to pricing policy. We have no reason to believe that there are any grounds for such action. The Board and management team of Agents’ Mutual have at every stage of the company’s inception and development taken appropriate legal advice."

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    What happens next then?

  • Simon Shinerock

    A letter before action is a serious step to take, if mediation fails I think a hearing takes place at which the parties may be asked to put up some costs, probably hundreds of thousands of pounds or more. It's not a very seemly for the industry to be squabbling like this and not what the agents concerned signed up for surely. I'm afraid OTM has opened the way for the accelerated demise of many good local agents but I have the feeling pride with prevent term from admitting their error.

    Trevor Mealham

    But then have portals got too much control over agents, what with owning the market sites that Joe Public go to. And in cases the source places where agents add their data?

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    You would expect a legal movement like this to get their apostrophes right, wouldn't you?

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    I totally understand the grievances, but I don't think some of these agents can profess they gave OTM enough time to succeed before throwing it under the bus.

    Trevor Mealham

    Trouble is many agents jumped on the bus and didnt expect the driver to treat passengers differently.

  • Kristjan Byfield

    The issue with OTM was always the premise of its creation- to reduce agents marketing costs. Whilst this is a practical ideal, it is not a good motivator. Whilst this was a fine starting point, the immediate attention should have turned to the User to understand what ZPG & RM dont deliver in terms of digital UsEx, UI and how to separate OTM from them in the market. This wasnt done so OTM was built and isnt quite as good as either other portal. I have not yet heard anyone site 1 standout feature of the portal- and that is the problem.
    The bizarre cries by some OTM agents of them to drop their OOP rule (one other portal) is, again, madness as the sole premise was to reduce marketing spend and to de-stabilise the 'monopoly'. By doing so, the opposite is acheived, monopoly remians untouched AND advertising expenses now increase as all agents have to now pay 3 portals for full coverage rather than 3- and how long before OTM charges similarly to the others.
    Frankly I think they sgould admit it is a faiked project, wind it down and move on. If not, then they need to completely rebud the platform to be something market leading and cutting edge rather than 2nd rate.
    Just my opion though.
    Put of interest- who are these agents? Wny the secrecy? If I was them I would be a lot more public about the whole thing.

  • Nicholas Crayson

    I think that OTM was given plenty of time. Many agents were already suffering having made the commitment and then being let down by failed promises. What is worst is that many who committed very early and invested money to help OTM launch, later found that some of their competition who joined far later were being given far better deals and even free access to the portal. That is the case that the action group is making

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    Funny to join a democracy and then not abide by the majority vote. Also funny to want to withdraw just as the new initiative to attract members (saving my firm over £18,000 in the next 12 months) is going to massively increase market share in certain areas and help build the brand into a credible alternative.


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