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Agents' Mutual chooses not to address Letter Before Action

The OTM Action Group has released a statement claiming that Agents' Mutual has chosen not to address any of the concerns raised in a Letter Before Action.

The Group claims it granted Agents' Mutual 56 days to reply substantively to the letter, twice as long as would usually be normal. 

A lengthy Letter Before Action, which ran to 24 pages, was sent to Agents' Mutual by Tollers LLP on behalf of the OTM Action Group.


It explained the events which led to the disgruntled agents claiming the OnTheMarket portal has damaged their businesses.

Acting on behalf of Agents' Mutual, Eversheds LLP told the Action Group that its client can not respond to the letter until it is supplied with the Information Memoranda from every agent involved in the group.

The Action Group argues that Agents' Mutual provided these documents to its members in the first place and should therefore be in possession of all the required information.

"The letter from Eversheds completely fails to appreciate how annoyed and disappointed OTM-affiliated members are with Agents' Mutual," reads the Action Group statement.

Nick Crayson of Crayson Estate Agents, who sits on the Steering Committee of the OTM Action Group, commented: “Our members generously agreed to Agents’ Mutual’s request for an unusually lengthy period of time to properly respond to our detailed Letter Before Action."

“To now send a letter claiming that they can’t address the issues raised, because they haven’t been provided with documents which they created in the first place, shows that Agents’ Mutual are happy to act cynically in order to frustrate the claims of the OTM Action Group."

“Our members are happy to meet with Agents’ Mutual to attempt to resolve these matters informally but it is impossible to do so if Agents’ Mutual refuse to set out their response to our claims." 

"In the meantime, it is no wonder that so many Agents’ Mutual members have simply stopped paying their subscriptions.”

The OTM Action Group was set up by indsutry consultant Iain White back in April and it set out the details of its case against Agents' Mutual in its Letter Before Action, sent in July.

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    Why would Eversheds act in any other way? One would hope that they will act in the interests of the majority of the OTM members.

    Algarve  Investor

    Surely the amount of time they were given was sufficient to gather the required information and formulate a response? I thought AM and OTM were supposed to be a well-oiled, professional machine. Are they or not?

    Seems like prevarication on AM's part.

  • Algarve  Investor

    As I said above, 56 days is more than enough time to at least offer some response. AM's excuse, that they didn't have the necessary Information Memoranda from every agent, just smacks of stalling at best, amateurism at worst. No evidence that AM or OTM have done anything wrong, but why can't they put their version of the story across? The lack of a reply just makes them look a bit shady.

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    OTM is/was agents best opportunity to date to persuade major portals such as Rightmove to stop their relentless price increases. They need our support, not our criticism.

    Rob  Davies

    Shame they're not very good then, isn't it? The one other portal rule was a disaster, their ban on online agents was ill-thought out and they've been embroiled in all sorts of scandals and legal battles for saying one thing and providing another. OTM/AM aren't some bunch of moral crusaders jumping on an ethical bandwagon to change the world for the better. They have just as many vested interests as Rightmove and Zoopla.

    That's fine, but to pretend otherwise - or to pretend they are the great hope of the estate agency world - is nonsense. They've been poorly run, mismanaged and have made no discernible impact on the portal market - people still don't know who they are, their brand awareness is poor and all the money spent on PR and TV ads clearly hasn't done the trick. Agents have backed them, their website is decent, and you see the OTM logo in plenty of estate agent windows, but those outside the industry have no idea what that logo stands for. It probably looks to them like the bullseye on an archery board.

    They shouldn't be above criticism, and they've had plenty to be criticised over. They wouldn't be getting themselves into all these battles with agents who signed up if everything was fine and dandy.

    They've been around for long enough now. The honeymoon period was finished a long time ago, they no longer deserve the benefit of the doubt and they need to start delivering on their promises or they will be rightly called out on it.

    Trevor Mealham

    Many would disagree. The UK is ready for a new way forward. Portals rely on portal tech and are encouraging in list only cheap services for £'s that portals do not highlight to consumers as totally different service levels.

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    I am an OTM member, I will be honest i am disappointed in a number of issues with them. Allowing agents that are based above a pub to advertise, lack of TV advertising, board members backing online options and yes the lack of leads.

    BUT I have signed a contract. I have gone into it knowing i am committed for a set period. And i will either stick to it or pay it up. End of the day these agents have signed contracts and should honor them. I bet they would bleat if a vendor decided to leave 2 weeks into a 12 week sole selling rights contract.

    Simon Shinerock

    Hmm, you would honor a contract even if you believe the other side had breached it?


    Simon, i bet any organisation / service can be found to breach their T&C's if you look hard enough.

    Even companies like Purplebricks, Emoov in the press again today with the ASA breaking advertising laws. How many times is that over the last 12 months? - Surely vendors who have had to sell through another agent yet still pay the fees to the online listers should be taking them to court through misleading advertising? - Where is the story on that?

    Or does that not sit well with you?

    Simon Shinerock

    You misunderstand my position, I believe in one rule, not one rule for some and another for others. Purple Bricks customers are protected by much more stringent consumer laws than businesses are, if they make false promises they will pay the price. However, I am also prepared to call it as it is and the situation with OTM comes under the same one rule


    Sorry Simon, i have no idea what you mean.

    That may very well be my problem not yours but makes no sense to me i am afraid.

  • Simon Shinerock

    BTW The idea that the only way to counteract portal dominance is with another portal is a bit like saying the only way to put out a fire is with another fire. Even if it worked OTM would not help independent agents regain control of their own businesses, all it would do is give them another master. No, the best way for good agents to free themselves from portal dominance is to find their leads elsewhere from the portals, their own websites and the local community for instance


    You are right 100% but as an industry we have elevated RM to the top of the public's wish list on where an agent should advertise.

    OTM was not about obtaining leads for instructions it was to do the very thing you are advocating.

    It was set up as a place that agents can advertise their property in one place for the public to find at cost. Local advertising sponsorship and service would win you instructions.

    Unfortunately agents did not understand or buy into this and in my opinion OTM has lost sight on the direction it was headed.

    We now have individuals with vested interests trying to take down OTM and OTM finding themselves in a losing PR battle to grow.

    One thing OTM has shown without a doubt is agents cannot and will not work together.

    Simon Shinerock

    I wouldn't come of RM yet but I have a cunning plan...

  • Simon Shinerock

    Exactly and why should they? We are competitors in a rapidly changing market, however that doesn't mean we can't be open to ideas that will help us survive and prosper. The trouble is that OTM depended on cooperation and many suspected their motives, methods and reasoning. If you knew you could generate sellers and landlords, buyers and tenants, from your own efforts then you would not need the portals, they would be optional not mandatory, OTM included. If I could show you a way of achieving this position at low cost would you be interested? If so make contact, I'm not hard to find!


    We have our own ways as well thanks Simon ;)

    But be honest would Choices come off RM?

    Think that shows the power of certainly RM

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    Simon, this last sentence sounds like you're flogging something!

    Simon Shinerock

    I'm always flogging 'something'!

  • John Evans

    Agents need to take back control - OnTheMarket is the only website to do this. If every UK agent joined on the market and dropped the others the same amount of properties would be sold.


    But if only half leave and there is no awareness of OTM then the half that leave will be at a serious disadvantage.

    Rob  Davies

    Maybe some agents are perfectly happy with Rightmove and Zoopla. Have you ever considered that?

    Your "take back control" mantra is eerily reminiscent of a recent big referendum we had, where plenty was promised by the winning side but we are now starting to find out that much of what was promised won't actually be delivered. OTM haven't succeeded because their ambitions were far too great. They were never going to overhaul Zoopla within a year to become the second biggest portal. It was absurd. They dented Zoopla, but only briefly. And even then, they made Rightmove even stronger. Rightmove have barely blinked at OTM's arrival; it's barely come up on their radar. The only time they would give any thought to OTM is to congratulate them for weakening Zoopla and making their own operations even stronger. Now RM are bigger than ever and Zoopla are bouncing back, while OTM is left to flounder. More than 18 months in and their brand awareness and customer recognition is still appalling, despite those million pound ads.

    If they'd been a bit less bullish from the start, and a bit more humble in the way they went about doing things, they might have fared better. As it is, they just seem to be clinging on, without direction, without purpose, without making any impact.

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    OTM - lowering the cost of portals was it's purpose and anyone who thought otherwise has just been sold a dud. It would never produce leads within 1-2 years but that's why they HAD to have committed members for 5 years. If you signed up to 5 years then you signed up for the vision of OTM not the leads. Complaining that it isn't delivering is just painful to read.
    Smile Please - you were a brave soul to join when you did but I've got serious respect for someone who can put themselves forward for the cause.
    I don't think OTM is dead but they need to put more focus into their heading now than ever.

    Also saying that OTM has damaged your business when we work in such a fluid business area is complete tosh. Every week there's a new regulation or tax, or vote etc and the market can drop off in a matter of weeks. We work in a business that deals with, on the most part, the biggest asset that the vendors have and those EA's that are savvy will survive the market peaks and troughs. If you cant afford the loss of business by joining OTM you shouldn't have gambled, and if you signed up to a 5 year gamble then i've got some great business ideas to pitch you all.


    Rodger - You get it! many agents do not but you do fully understand it from your posting, shame others do not.

    - Only thing is i was not brave (or stupid) and signed up to a 5 year contract, i signed up this year on a 12 month contract.

    I believe in what OTM are trying to achieve (or what they initially said it would be) but skeptical if they will ever achieve it.

    We took the commercial choice to continue with RM and ditch Z - We have not lost any business because of it.

    The question now is do we continue with OTM or ditch them and increase further our spend with RM?

    Would be a bitter pill to swallow but OTM is loosing traction and i believe it is not being run properly. I believe others could make OTM work but they are not allowed to have the input it needs.

    However i would never join a band of disgruntled OTM members to try and put a nail in their coffin, i am too ethical and have too many principles and pride to blame others for what could be my mistake. Shame on the agents that feel a need to blame others for their poor business practices.

  • Iain  White

    The agents are not blaming OTM for loss of business they are Claiming that misdepresentation won their custom and signature in the 1st instance, early adopters were promised always lower subscription rates promise broken. So the early supporters who made it possible pay more have longer contracts and in some cases loaned money to make it all happen are disadvantaged over newcomers?

    Add in for many smaller firms total lack of leads, silence to concerns raised, refusal to discuss issues and threatening legal letters to its members who had no fnacail means to gain legal representation individually then a group action became inevitable, a group That receives 2 to 3 new enquires a week about signing up I might add.

    Is that proper behaviour is that how a mutual should operate?

    This can so easily be resolved with sensible discussion and CONCESSION on both sides, strong leadership and mutual understanding of the others position. The group have offered this but met with stalling, gamesmanship and a total lack of respect.

    The idea was brilliant and should not be abandoned but without a significant change of stance understanding leadership and direction OTM is NOT The agents saviour it set out to be.


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