OnTheMarket chief executive Ian Springett has told an agents’ conference of the strategy for his service - including a prediction that if current ‘free’ users started paying, then the portal would be self-funding.
Addressing the Relocation Agent Network conference on Friday Springett displayed a slide giving the relative agency membership of each of the big three.
Using publicly available data he said Rightmove had 14,585 independent High Street agency branches plus 2,000 corporates and 1,000 online/hybrid/off the High Street offices.
Zoopla had 12,264 independent High Street branches and, like Rightmove, some 2,000 corporates and 1,000 online/hybrid/off the High Street offices.
OTM had 11,500 independent High Street offices.
Springett said OnTheMarket’s institutional shareholders - those who put some £30m into the portal during its IPO process late last year and early 2018 - were happy with the strategy adopted by the portal. That was “addressing what the customer wants, keeping the fees sustainable in the long term, and then allowing us to build other revenue streams.”
He went on to say: “If we’re able to get the backing of the industry - of all the people currently using the site but not paying for it - if they all decided to pay, then we’d become self-funding.”
He also said that agents had the opportunity to influence OTM policy as they formed 70 per cent of the shareholders currently.
But he warned: “In due course they’re all going to be able to sell … and if the majority of the agents’ holding is reduced and reduced and reduced then the influence the agents have will be more limited.”
Tomorrow OnTheMarket returns to court for the next instalment of its battle with Connells-owned agency Gascoigne Halman.
The latest action is likely to last three days in the Court of Appeal which will hear Gascoigne Halman’s challenge to a ruling that cleared Agents Mutual - formerly the parent company of OnTheMarket - of anti-competitive activity with its one other portal rule, which existed until early this year.
In July 2017 the Competition Appeals Tribunal judges, after a lengthy consideration following the tribunal itself, decided that OnTheMarket’s ‘one other portal only’ rule was not anti-competitive.
The tribunal had been hearing a claim by OTM’s parent company, Agents’ Mutual, that Connells-owned agency Gascoigne Halman was in breach of contract. Since that time AM has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of OnTheMarket plc.
In 2017, after the CAT verdict was announced, it was agreed in court that Gascoigne Halman must pay £1,243,248 as an “interim amount” pending a definitive decision on costs.
At the time Connells Group issued a statement hinting that it could appeal at some time in the future: “Gascoigne Halman is surprised and disappointed by today’s Competition Appeal Tribunal judgement. We are considering our position and will consequently not be making any further comment at this stage.”
Connells is not commenting on the case and a statement from an OnTheMarket spokesperson says: “Having taken appropriate legal advice, the Company remains confident that the judgment of the Competition Appeal Tribunal will be upheld. As litigation is ongoing, we have no further comment to make at this stage."