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Why estate agents need to take compliance seriously

14 March 2017 585 Views
Why estate agents need to take compliance seriously

Some big news in the agency world last week won’t have escaped the attention of many in the industry.

Last Thursday news broke that four estate agents based in Somerset - Abbott and Frost Limited, Gary Berryman Estate Agents Ltd (and its parent company Warne Investments Limited), Greenslade Taylor Hunt and West Coast Property Services (UK) Limited – had agreed to pay more than £370,000 in fines to the Competition and Markets Authority after admitting illegal price-fixing.

The agencies admitted to breaking competition law by taking part in a price-fixing cartel in Burnham-on-Sea, a popular tourist town and seaside resort not far from Weston-super-Mare.

According to the CMA’s year-long investigation, the businesses in question colluded to set minimum commission rates for residential property sales at 1.5%, thereby denying local sellers the chance of securing a better asking price on their property.

The CMA said price-fixing “cheats customers” and has promised to continue clamping down on it, no matter which businesses are involved. It added that, given the high cost of moving home and the sometimes stressful nature of selling, estate agents shouldn’t “be conspiring to deny their customers the best possible deal, by agreeing not to compete on fees”.

This isn’t an isolated incident, either, the CMA has now handed out more than £1 million in fines in the last few years. There was also a case in 2015 which saw members of the Three Counties Estate Agent Association fined £735,000 for similar behaviour.

The CMA has tried to improve matters by launching a campaign designed to improve understanding of competition law among estate agents, but it has shown it is also willing to take a hardline approach to anyone who continues to break the law. The CMA takes compliance very seriously, backed up by the hefty fines dished out to the offending parties.

Estate agents should never be colluding with other agents to fix prices or stifle competition, with those that do facing significant financial penalties and a dented reputation. Compliance, as always, is vital. Agents won’t want to be seen to be acting against the interests of their clients, so talk of getting the best possible price for sellers needs to be backed up with decisive action.

Compliance might feel like a bit of a minefield at times, with new legislation and rules forever coming into play, but there are organisations and bodies out there who can give agencies a helping hand.

Of course, compliance is just one (albeit very important) part of an estate agent’s overall business strategy. We know that, as an agency owner, you lead a busy and hectic working life, with all manner of diary appointments, call-backs and instructions to keep on top of. To help with this Gnomen has created an all-in-one, cloud based software system that allows you to manage all parts of your business with ease.

All our services – from integrated messaging and social media to customer engagement and office accounting – work in complete harmony, giving you the ability to manage your staff, office, customers and multi-channel marketing in one place, without any hassle.

What’s more, given our software is cloud-based, you can access your business at any time, from anywhere in the world, on any device, with us on hand if any support is needed or any problems warrant addressing.

If that wasn’t enough, we also pride ourselves on creating websites that look great and work even better, including a wide range of cutting-edge features to really help your business stand out from the crowd.

In estate agency, staying ahead of the competition is all-important, and a modern, user-friendly website fit for the 21st century can help you to achieve that. 

To get a better idea of what we offer, you can book a free demo with us today.        

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Montana Hassan, Business Development Manager at Gnomen Ltd.

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