An agent claims it has been removed from the Allagents site after refusing to pay for a service it did not want.
Conran Estates, which has branches in south-east London, was removed from the free reviews site last week.
Allagents says that the free profile of the firm, which had received 397 reviews and achieved a rating of 4.9, has merely been temporarily suspended – although this would not have happened if the firm had paid for an upgrade.
It also claims that Conran Estates had misused its previous ‘transparent agent’ status – something the agent totally denies.
Managing director Simon Hughes said problems began when Conran Estates paid for banners on Allagents.
He said: “We paid upfront for a year, but before our contract ended, I noticed that the banners had been taken off and a member of my staff said they hadn’t been there for some time – many months.
“When I pointed this out to Allagents, they said that I should have checked on a regular basis. However, I had assumed they would stick to the contract I had paid for.
“To be fair, Allagents did then put the banners back up again.
“However, I felt we had paid for a service we weren’t getting, and at a management meeting it was agreed we wouldn’t continue with it.
“I then received a demand from Allagents saying I owed it £1,320 for a renewal. Nowhere in my earlier contract had it stated that there would be an automatic renewal, and I refused to pay the invoice.
“Our page has now been removed, leading me to think that agents who do not pay the site have their pages taken down. Yet it is meant to be a free review site.”
Martin McKenzie of Allagents flatly denied what Conran Estates told us.
He said: “Their managing director claimed products paid for had not been available for a gap of some months, which was not the case. If he had known this to be a fact, why would he not have contacted us at the time? Conran Estates have NOT been de-listed because of non-payment of an invoice.
“Conran Estates had taken a number of advertising banners last year and they were invoiced for the automatic renewal of them to cover the following annual term.
“The agent had enjoyed access to the products for almost two months beyond the renewal invoice date, but only the other day, said they didn’t want to proceed.
“As they cancelled well after the renewal date, we have placed their profile in temporary suspension until the support team can get round to removing the products. Had we been giving notice of non-renewal prior to expiry date then there would not have been a need for this action. Conran were made fully aware of this.
“We had even offered an alternative ‘premium support plus’ account which would have given them much better value.”
McKenzie also claimed that Conran Estates had previously been expelled from the ‘transparent agent’ scheme.
McKenzie added that “every branch of every agent” can have a free basic listing on Allagents, but that due to new features on the site, including league tables and staff profiling, requiring extensive moderation, the site had become more costly to run.
He went on: “With the volume of branches and staff within the industry, there is constant updating and maintenance work required to keep the details on our site as accurate as we possibly can. When auditors come across profiles that require so much work that they affect the accuracy and credibility of our rankings, then we have no option but to temporarily remove the offending profiles and place them on our free ticket system.
“We provide free tools for every listed agent and branch to update their basic details. However, whenever an agent requires assistance with advertising and updating or correcting errors (normally due to their customers making the errors), then there is a need for our 'premium support plus' package.
“When agents call us, we advise them about this subscription support package and whilst many recognise and enjoy the benefits of it, others prefer to continue to use the free service.
“We have no issue with agents enjoying the free listing.
“By logging an enquiry online, we will look into the issue free of charge for them, but just like any other commercial business, our support team prioritise paid support work before the queued issues on the free ticket system.
“Paid support work is normally done live without the need to remove the profile from the live site. We do have a backlog in the free system; however, we do eventually get through it.
“We make it clear that because we continually require to stop and start free support work it is normally done off-line. This means that there are times when profiles are temporarily removed or suspended from the site to allow for this.
“Once completed, the agent’s profile is made live once again.
“If they want to be assured of uninterrupted access to their profile pages, then the only option open to the agent is to upgrade their membership to our ‘premium support plus’ package.”
McKenzie said the cost of the package varied from agent to agent. However, Conran Estates was offered it at £50 a month – which it declined to pay.
Hughes insisted that his version of events was true. He said the banners had been taken down without explanation. He said it was a “total lie” that his firm had been expelled from the ‘transparent agent’ scheme, and that the firm had been removed, again without explanation.
He said it was clear that Allagents wanted a fee for their services.
He said: “This is a free to use website with added products for sale which are not mandatory. Call me cynical, but they see us with 400 reviews and hold us over a barrel with a ‘pay or be removed’ ultimatum’. It is incredibly unethical.”