The Court of Appeal Civil Division has today given Connells’ agency Gascoigne Halman the right to appeal against the verdict of the Competition Appeals Tribunal concerning Agents’ Mutual’s ‘one other portal only’ policy.
OnTheMarket, the portal owned by Agents’ Mutual, was the clear winner of the CAT hearing when the verdict was given over the summer.
At the time the issue was about Agents’ Mutual claiming breach of contract by Gascoigne Halman, which operates 18 offices in the north of England.
When it was an independent agency, Gascoigne Halman had agreed to subscribe to OnTheMarket. It was subsequently acquired by Connells Group, which advertised its properties on both Rightmove and Zoopla - thus breaking the one other portal only rule, if it was upheld.
Now that there is uncertainty over the decision, the cost implications for all parties will be considerable, with millions of pounds at stake.
Back in July, when the CAT decision was announced, the verdict was seen as a test of whether OnTheMarket’s one other portal rule was anti-competitive: immediately after the judgement, Connells said it was considering its next move but had not yet ruled out an appeal.
The agency group has remained silent on the subject since then; however, on July 12 Gascoigne Halman was ordered to make an interim costs payment of £1.24m within 14 days to Agents’ Mutual.
Today’s written judgement, seen by Estate Agent Today, says the agreement to give Connells' right of appeal was made by the Right Honourable Lord Justice Kitchin. It reads:
Decision - Permission to appeal: granted.
Permission to introduce fresh evidence: adjourned to the hearing of the appeal.
An order granting permission may limit the issues to be heard or be made subject to conditions.
Reasons: Permission to appeal
I am persuaded that the grounds of appeal as developed in the appellant’s skeleton argument are properly arguable and merit considerations by this court.
Permission to introduce fresh evidence: The full court at the hearing of the substantive appeal will be in a better position to determine whether it is appropriate to receive the fresh evidence.