The Connells-owned agency Gascoigne Halman is to make a costs payment of £1.24m within 14 days to Agents’ Mutual - but that is not necessarily the end of the long-running dispute between the two parties.
Last week Agents’ Mutual was the clear winner when the tribunal determined that the One Other Portal rule applying to agency members of the OnTheMarket portal was not anti-competitive; this was the chief result of a long-running legal battle between Agents’ Mutual and Gascoigne Halman.
Yesterday the tribunal reconvened as a case management conference to determine costs, but the issue could not be conclusively resolved ahead of a possible appeal.
Therefore the £1.24m is described only as an “interim” payment. The final costs will be settled after any possible appeal by Connells’ Gascoigne Halman.
The conference chairman said that he would be issuing an order that the £1.33m which Agents’ Mutual had last year lodged with the Court as security (for the eventuality that the CAT judgment had been in favour of Gascoigne Halman) be returned to Agents’ Mutual.
Similarly, he said that he would be issuing an order for a further £500,000 fortification of costs, which Agents’ Mutual had lodged with Court, to be returned to Agents’ Mutual.
No appeal decision has yet been reached by the Connells-owned agency; if it is lodged it will first go to the CAT and, if it is not accepted at that point, it could in theory go on to the Court of Appeal. If it follows this course, the process may take some time.
Agents’ Mutual has told Estate Agent Today that it has no comment to make at this time; EAT has asked Connells Group if it has any comment.
An email sent last week to OnTheMarket member agents by Agents’ Mutual chief executive Ian Springett made it clear that the portal’s approach at the case management conference would be aggressive.
It read: “The proceedings before the Tribunal have been running since July last year with the Trial completing in February. The manner in which our opponents conducted the case has caused us to divert considerable resources and management time, as was presumably intended by those who funded it, including Zoopla.”
Gascoigne Halman is a north of England agency which was an independent when it first joined OnTheMarket; then it was acquired by Connells and it joined Zoopla, effectively breaching the One Other Portal rule.