Agents’ Mutual boss in competition case stresses he told agents to make their own decisions

Agents’ Mutual chief executive Ian Springett knew about collective decision making between groups of estate agents from the same area, it was alleged at a hearing yesterday (Thursday).

However, Mr Springett stressed that this was correct only in the context that he had heard about it, and that he had told agents to take their own advice and make their own decisions.

The Competition Appeal Tribunal is examining issues around the ‘one other portal’ rule imposed by Agents’ Mutual portal OnTheMarket.

Yesterday, Paul Harris QC, representing Gascoigne Halman, produced to the tribunal an email from Helen Whiteley, commercial director at AM.

The email was said to have been sent to Mr Springett in June 2014.

In it, said Mr Harris, Ms Whiteley asked if collective decision making over which other portal to choose would face any legal issues.

Mr Harris put it to Mr Springett under cross-examination: “This is quite a period of time after you say you had informed them [agents] they should make individual decisions.

“Your number two is saying she clearly does not know if there are any legal issues about making collective decisions.”

Julie Emmerson, the AM regional sales representative for the north-east, was said to have attended a meeting with the ‘coastal group’ of agents in the area in September 2014.

Ms Whiteley asked Mr Springett in the email if Ms Emmerson could be in the room when these collective decisions were being made or “should Julie leave at that point?”

She was told that Ms Emmerson must leave before any negotiation or discussion of which portal they might choose.

Mr Harris alleged to Mr Springett: “You knew there would be joint negotiations but you didn’t want to get involved.”

He said Mr Springett “took no steps to stop that discussion being collective” and “avoided sending any messages or documents about it” to prevent “incriminating evidence”.

Instead, Mr Harris claimed, Mr Springett pointed the north-east agents in the direction of AM board member and north-east estate agent Clive Rook so he could deal with it “orally”.

On June 10, just days after the meeting, Ms Emmerson and Mr Rook were copied in to an email from estate agent Steve Henning, which explained exactly what happened when she “left the room”.

In it Mr Henning details that the agents were split between leaving Rightmove or Zoopla.

Replying to Mr Harris, Mr Springett said agents were “clearly told they should take their own legal advice” and he had told Mr Rook that previously.

Mr Harris said it “does not say that anywhere or in any part of the message chain”.

For the fourth time, he asked Mr Springett if he knew of the collective discussions.

Mr Springett said: “My evidence is that I had those discussions [about individual decision making] with the north-east, and south-west Wales.”

Mr Harris replied: “You were facilitating collective discussions to go ahead between agents but party to it.”

Mr Harris put it to Mr Springett that he “knew that agents in the north-east, including a board director at Agents’ Mutual, were going to have a collective decision about which portal to list on and which not to list on”.

He said Mr Rook had been in on the decision, and through him, and the email sent to Ms Emmerson, Mr Springett knew what they were going to choose.

Mr Springett said Ms Emmerson’s only agenda in the north-east was to recruit new members and he “did not care” what other portal they chose.

Mr Harris said: “So it was just a happy coincidence that Ms Emmerson was told about the exact part of the meeting she was asked to step out.”

It was at that point that Mr Springett admitted to knowing that the group was meeting to discuss “a collective purchasing arrangement” but reiterated he had told them to seek independent advice.

Mr Harris said Mr Springett could not point to any evidence that they were told that.

The hearing was told by Mr Springett that Ms Emmerson was recruiting estate agents to Agents’ Mutual ‘one-by-one’ and it was never discussed collectively.

Mr Harris then produced an email sent around the north-east agents on August 11, with Mr Rook copied in. It was titled: ‘OTM-Making a decision about what portal to come off’.

The email talks of “all coastal agents” agreeing to “all come off as a group”, said Mr Harris, adding that it states that there will be an OTM meeting in September where “all have to make a decision on the coast”, said Mr Harris.

Mr Harris said it was clear what AM board member Mr Rook was thinking from his internal emails months before the launch of OTM in January 2015 –  that “all members should join to make OTM number one” and should “marginalise non members”.

He continues, said Mr Harris, to say that “nearly all members have committed verbally join in advance of the launch”.

Mr Harris said Mr Rook “clearly knows about discussions yet to be made by nearly all members in his area”.

They are clearly having collective discussions and reporting those, the barrister went on.

Mr Springett said he could not comment on that.

Mr Rook had apparently said only one north-east agent had not decided to drop Rightmove and go with Zoopla.

In the email he allegedly said: ”If he does not, he can be marginalised. We can successfully attack non-members.”

Mr Rook goes on to state that he knows a collective boycott is illegal, the hearing was told.

Again Mr Springett said he “cannot offer any comment” and said he hadn’t spoken to Mr Rook about the topic for a while and “could not know what he was thinking”.

Mr Harris said Mr Rook and other board members like him were ‘instrumental’ in getting other people to sign up.

They offered ‘guidance and reassurance’ to other members when signing up and had ‘influence’ on current and existing members and the ‘wider estate agencies’.

Mr Springett said their influence came from “putting their reputations on the line” when signing up.

Mr Harris then produced an email from Mr Springett to Ms Whiteley from October 2014 stating that agencies should take the “low risk option” when choosing their second portal. Mr Springett favoured agencies dropping Zoopla.

Mr Springett told the hearing that he did not care which other portal agents used as long as they stuck to the OOP policy.

Persevering, Mr Harris told the hearing Mr Springett was aware of the group in the north-east in which Clive Rook collectively discussed which portal to choose.

He produced a document about a group of agents prospectively stating they wanted to come off both Zoopla and Rightmove.

Mr Springett said he was against the idea as he knew OTM could not be a direct replacement for both straight after launch, and agents should keep one other portal to sustain them until OTM was fully up and running to compete.

Mr Harris put it to him: “Do you want to change your evidence when three times I asked you ‘do you know about collective groups coming off both or which portal to choose, Mr Springett?'”

Mr Springett replied: “I was told that there was a move in some parts, in the sense that it was reported to me in that conversation.’

“So the answer is yes?“ said Mr Harris.

“In that context yes,” said Mr Springett.

“You knew about consensual decision making in the north-west and you told Ms Whiteley you have a preference on what that decision should be?” asked Mr Harris.

Mr Springett said he had “only said it to Ms Whiteley and not to Mr Rook”.

Mr Harris asked him if that preference was to come off one and not two portals, and that one should be Zoopla.

Mr Springett replied: “Yes.”

In an email to Ms Whiteley, Mr Springett said he wanted to “render it (Zoopla) useless”, the hearing was told.

“That is your mind set,” said Mr Harris. “You did not want to split the vote to which portal they chose.”

“I didn’t care,” replied Mr Springett. “I just wanted the most members possible for Agents’ Mutual to disrupt the market.”

He said he didn’t care if the vote in a local area was split or diluted.

“Really?” said Mr Harris.

He again produced an email sent by Mr Springett , this time to an agent, which said: “Outside London most members decided to remain with Rightmove, it puts us in second position.

“In London RMZ is split leaving us in third place.’

“It makes our job harder.”

Mr Harris claimed the document stated that “the most effective way to get to number two position is to get the agents to leave Zoopla.

“It is quicker and more efficient to drop Zoopla. I would prefer you all to ditch them.”

Mr Harris said: “In your capacity as chief executive you are telling him information that he did not know and wasn’t for his ears.

“This is clear evidence of you trying to influence a group of agents to ditch Zoopla and make Agents’ Mutual number two.”

Asked for a statement, a spokesperson for Agents’ Mutual, the company behind OnTheMarket, said: “It would be inappropriate to give a running daily commentary through the media while formal proceedings at the Competition Appeal Tribunal are ongoing.

“Many claims, counter-claims and allegations have inevitably been made and reported during the proceedings.

“These matters should, and will, be determined on the evidence at trial by the Tribunal.”

The hearing continues today.

A report of earlier proceedings at the hearing yesterday is immediately below this one.

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103 Comments

  1. PeeBee

    “Julie Emmerson, the AM regional sales representative for the north-east, was said to have attended a meeting with the ‘coastal group’ of agents in the area in September 2014.
    Ms Whiteley asked Mr Springett in the email if Ms Emmerson could be in the room when these collective decisions were being made or “should Julie leave at that point?”
    She was told that Ms Emmerson must leave before any negotiation or discussion of which portal they might choose.”
    But, according to this article and following comments published here on EYE, it appears that SOMEONE FROM  ZOOPLA was in attendance:

    http://www.propertyindustryeye.com/zoopla-sponsoring-meeting-agents-mutual-members/

    Funny, that…

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    1. PeeBee

      Oh – a ‘dislike’ within seconds and ‘danny’ is around posting his anti-hype…

      …funny, that.

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      1. RealAgent

        Ha, you should be an investigative journalist PeeBee!

        I love how Danny’s prejudicial comment appears to have been deleted. Allegedly an estate agent, now apparently moonlights as a lawyer… what a t**t.

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        1. NGgibson

          Shouldn’t you be selling some houses?

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          1. RealAgent

            Oh wow that was a witty and original knock out punch ngibson.

            I would expect one of my children to come back with a reply like that.

            No wait they can both spell proffesional!

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          2. PeeBee

            “Shouldn’t you be selling some houses?”

            I would suggest that pre-8am ring-rounds, viewing follow-ups or offer negotiation discussions would not be welcomed by somewhere in the region of 99.9999999999999999999999% of the homebuying or -selling community – despite what 24:7 Call-Centre Agents seem to want the world to think they are there for…

            Shouldn’t you be engaging brain before posting comments, NGibson?

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            1. observer

              “Henning, who is operations manager at Jan Forster Estates, said a similar invitation will be extended to Rightmove to attend the group’s next meeting in October.”

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    2. observer

      Zoopla were invited by the agents to put their point across.

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      1. PeeBee

        Albeit speculation, that’s one possibility, observer…

        …there are other possibilites, of course – and no doubt people will speculate upon those also.

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        1. observer

          I don’t want to get confrontational about this but it does clearly say in the article that you posted that the agents themselves got together and then called Zoopla.

          That is a big difference to Springett gathering agents together and advising them.

          I loved the idea of AM foremost but OTM is realistically looking like a very expensive mistake.

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          1. PeeBee

            “I don’t want to get confrontational about this but it does clearly say in the article that you posted that the agents themselves got together and then called Zoopla.”

            I non-confrontationally suggest you have another read of the article.

            Then post again.

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            1. observer

              Henning, who is operations manager at Jan Forster Estates, said a similar invitation will be extended to Rightmove to attend the group’s next meeting in October.

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              1. PeeBee

                I would say that what you have quoted is by no means a ‘given’ that Zoopla attended ‘by invitation’.

                Simply that Rightmove were to be afforded a similar opportunity to beg for the individual Agencies’ business.

                (Which, I believe – but please don’t take this as Gospel – never happened)

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                1. observer

                  Bravo, Spicer and Conway have nothing on your reading and interpretation of facts.

                  Do not go gentle into that good night,

                  Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

                  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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  2. Ric

    It might only make sense to me this next bit……

    The judge needs to have his house valued by 20 of the member estate agents who he suspects (but let’s imagine is correct in his suspicion) in thinking they have held a “keep your fee’s at this level” cartel meeting.

    He would QUICKLY realise, if 100 Estate Agents stood at the end of a cliff agreeing to jump you would end up with 100 estate agents on top of the cliff saying, “see, I knew you wouldn’t”.

    Trust me, I’m an estate agent and if you all now promise to charge more I will, if you all promise to drop all the portals I will, if you all promise to stop buying products I will. I promise, I promise I promise. *memo to staff, drop fees, promo portals and buy some products, let have em.

    I rest my case, OTM win, case closed.

    Why thank you your honour.

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    1. AgentV

      ” if 100 Estate Agents stood at the end of a cliff agreeing to jump you would end up with 100 estate agents on top of the cliff saying, “see, I knew you wouldn’t”.

      I’m putting together a book of estate agents’ humour. Can I have your permission to include this little golden nugget?

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      1. wardy

        I’m hoping PIE will include a face palm emoji for use in the comments soon.

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      2. Ric

        Permission granted….

        But remember, my agreement means nothing and I will take you to court with the help of Z, soon after you make any money.

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    2. Trevor Mealham

      The letter of intent is a horizontal action. Everyone knew joining AM/OTM meant only doing OTM and one other portal. The group rules supported bans on RM, Z and others.

      As many of the letter of intent agents signed up, they did more than just talk. They acted in physically supporting the OOPR embargo.

      Horizontal agreements restraining competitors is a No No.

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      1. PeeBee

        “Everyone knew joining AM/OTM meant only doing OTM and one other portal.”

        SSSSSHHHH, Mr Mealham!  Don’t let GHs QC hear you shout that out loud!

        I reckon he might want to keep that – along with quite a few other little but significant factoids – quiet until the Judge makes his decision.

        It’s almost like you want to help AM by blurting that relevant truth out…

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  3. NGgibson

    Peebee will say anything to protect his precious portal – literally anything. Laughable. Give it a rest and face the music. The evidence is damning.
    Are you going to tell me the emails are fake?

    If this is upheld in court then its curtains to OTM. Simple. As. That.

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    1. Ric

      Are you an estate agent NGgibson? You ducked the question last time? If you say you are, I will believe you….. so how honest will you be?

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      1. NGgibson

        A man with many property interests and with vast knowledge of the law – take what you want from that.

        I am here to state facts.

        If the judge upholds this in court like i say. It is over.

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        1. Ric

          Politician it appears! yes or no would have done.

          With your passion to be involved in Anti-Competitive law cases:

          Did you get involved in the forum for holiday companies in the 02.02.2017 Holiday Pricing case? or the Pioneer Vertical restraints case of the same date? Interestingly Philips also had a case open on the 02.02.17, so the Technology Forums must have NGgibson all over them….. I assume you have an interest in technology and someone is not typing this for you.

          Give over NGgibson, not an estate agent clearly… as you came up with the classic “have you not got houses to sell”, avoided a simple question above in a politicians style. You must only work for Z or perhaps Connells in their due diligence department.

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          1. NGgibson

            Whatever makes you sleep at night, sir!

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            1. Ric

              Bingo!

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    2. RealAgent

      And here you are again ngibson. Odd how you never comment on any other “estate agency” articles!?

      But in reply to your comment. OTM was put together by estate agents, controlled by estate agents with the aim of a large collective membership raising enough revenue to be able to reduce portal advertising.

      Should OTM fail then there will be no “estate agents” celebrating, it will merely be the online only crews and the portal reps.

      But as an estate agency how did you spell it, oh yeah proffesional, you would know that.

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      1. NGgibson

        Thank you for your kind feedback!

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        1. RealAgent

          Really?! You feel qualified to make that statement do you ngibson. Didn’t realise you were a legal “proffesional too?!!

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          1. Woodentop

            NGgibson is not the person they would like you to believe, just antagonist, if they are then when it comes to on anti-competitive law, which above other things clearly states an agreement is not anti-competitive if:

             

            involves companies with only a small combined share of the market

             

            is necessary to improve products or services, develop new products or find new and better ways of making products available to consumers.

             

            It also says that companies with a dominant position charging high fee’s are …… shall we see RM in the dock soon? This is all part of Article 101 & 102 of the EU treaty on competition which many backstreet lawyers posting here choose to ignore or fail to take care before posting.

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      2. Trevor Mealham

        @ Real Agent: Stating in the middle of an anticompetitive court case that OTM was:

        ** controlled by estate agents

        could be the worse thing you could say.  Springett has pretty much suggested he created the plan and drove what the agents wanted.

        Saying:  The OOPR therefore was: ** controlled by estate agents

        could get 6000 agents in deep water.  I’d hate to see good agents get whacked. Blame should go on the AM and OTM directors and their sales managers who told agents the mechanics of the operation was lawfully Ok

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    3. Robert May

      OTM is the product, what Peebee and I and, many others are keen to protect is Agents Mutual the affinity group and the people who built what is an incredible achievement of bringing together over 25% of the industry as an affinity group.

      It is important that the affinity group is not  damaged by what is going on; looking at this from outside both parties need their legs slapped but  what must not be allowed to happen is the collective  voice of smaller agents to be silenced, by corporate agency, corporate service suppliers  who have a competitive vested interest in their smaller competitors or customers being kept disadvantaged.

      The case isn’t over and reading the documents it appears  there is a  deliberate vexatiousness that  is simply an expected extension of the stag rutting that has been present from day 1. I can’t see either  party coming out of this well.

      There are a lot of downbeat conversations going on right now,  but I can see Agents mutual  rising up out of this whatever the outcome of the case with some valuable lessons learned and the naivety of corporate aggression gone.

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    4. PeeBee

      “I am here to state facts.”

      “Peebee will say anything to protect his precious portal – literally anything.”

      I’m sorry – but if you are going to make claims like that you’d better start substantiating them.

      WITH “FACTS” – as you claim you are here to do.

      You should also know the history of what you’re suddenly an ‘expert’ in.

      Otherwise – you’re the latest in a long line of blowhards with a (currently) hidden agenda.

       

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      1. PeeBee

        Well?… I’m still waiting for the facts you wish to state regarding my “saying literally anything to protect <my> precious portal”.

        Or are you sulkily accepting the title of blowhard with hidden agenda without further comment?

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  4. Ric

    and lets have a vote….

    Would any agent come off Rightmove? if not why? Is there an agent brave enough to come off Rightmove today, tomorrow, this year?

    That alone, should be why ANY plan to break in to the portal world should be welcomed with open arms.

    That’s how scary this industry is, none of us would dare come off RM, the portal we make work!

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  5. AgentPink92

    Can anyone seriously believe that the OOP rule would not inevitably lead to exactly the type of discussions that are now being legally challenged?

    This is exactly the same as the old chestnut of one person saying “don’t tell anyone else” and the person replying “of course I won’t”.

    The simple fact is most people do tell someone else, just as it was inevitable that discussions would take place and inevitable that these would be circulated by email. Far too much of the ‘strategic thinking’ around AM and the OOP rule was motivated not by applying sound business acumen but by ego driven emotion and blind hatred of the duopoly. And that emotion and hatred is now coming home to roost.

    I did not join AM and was totally against it from the moment I heard of the OOP rule. Nobody dictates to me where I can advertise to maintain and grow my business. I can drop RM and Z if I so choose, but join AM and I am dictated to? No thanks.

    And when I told one AM board member that tMO the OOP rule should not be applied, I was told not only that it was not up for discussion but also that once OTM became the No.1 portal non-joining agents and new agents would be barred from entry to “reduce competition”.  I kid you not.

    That was the final nail in the coffin for my agency and AM.

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    1. NGgibson

      Spot on, Sir! Shame the rest are blind.

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    2. FromTheHip64

      I did not join AM and was totally against it from the moment I heard of the OOP rule.

      Sadly AgentPink92…….agents like yourself are the reason that RM continue to laugh all the way to the bank. You clearly weren’t in the business back in the days when we were masters of our own destiny, beholden to nobody. Clearly you like the idea that the RM monster has us all by the short and curlies. OTM was our industry’s one chance to break loose from the RM shackles and that chance will never come back again.

      Pat yourself on the back and wait for the their next price hike.

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      1. marccox

        You wont have to wait long either just had our meeting 6% is coming this April, unless of course we want to spend another 45K per annum on the Optimiser package then they wont put their prices up !!!

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      2. AgentPink92

        Fromthehip,

        You are taking a polarised view;

        I am all for an agent managed portal and would be more than happy to reduce my RM and Z costs or better still do away with them altogether.

        But I, along with let’s not forget the majority of agents, did not think that AM with it’s OOP rule was the right way to go about it.

        There is huge difference between ant-AM and pro-agent managed portal, the fact that you and others don’t understand that is another example of the emotion and illogical thinking that surrounds AM.

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        1. RealAgent

          So are you really that arrogant Pink as to suggest that anyone who has a different opinion to you is guilty of emotional non irrational thinking?! God I love people like you….

          It could just be that we understood the rational behind the rule; what agents apart from the Zoopla sponsored ones would have been able to stretch their budget over three portals?

          It was the right policy at the time and I don’t believe I was clouded by anything when I made my decision to join!!

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          1. RealAgent

            *rational thinking even.

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    3. James Morris

      You must rub your hands together with glee when you receive what feels like the quarterly RM price increase letter for a service that does exactly what it did last month and the month before that.

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  6. marccox

    Does anybody know when the case is expected be finished? And how long after that we can expect to hear the verdict?

     

    Thanks

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    1. Trevor Mealham

      The days in court are estimated till 20th Feb

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  7. AgencyInsider

    Mornings on PIE these days are like listening to the Today programme – a feast of speculation and anxiety-raising with whole shedloads of opinion.

    The barrack-room lawyers infesting the comments on here about the OTM case are a pain in the b*m. They can waffle on all they like about their ‘legal’ credentials but when all is said and done the only thing that matters – is the court verdict. And luckily, that will come down to the skills of real lawyers.

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  8. AgentV

    I have read and heard several people say it over a period of time, but can someone please just answer me two/three questions arising;

    1). I have heard it said that by agents that they are members of OTM but not AM…..how does that happen, because I don’t understand? I always thought that if you were part of one you were automatically part of the other with your inherent voting right.

    2). Who actually says or speaks out for AM and its members? Why do you never hear them say anything…especially like standing up for the virtues of using high street agents….and against the misleading propaganda of the online listers?

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    1. Trevor Mealham

      AM and OTM were set up as separate companies and Ian Springett was not on the original AM board. That is until things appeared to get hotter and Ian Springett by choice? or maybe demand of the AM directors, joined AM as shown at Companies House.

      Agents joined AM which fed through to OTM.  OTM upholding the restraints of AM as (originally a separate entity banning online only, and carrying the OOPR is cartel like in itself.

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      1. PeeBee

        Mr Mealham

        Will you PLEASE use the appropriate top or tail to your posts:

        IN MY OPINION ONLY – NOT CURRENTLY LEGALLY DECIDED

        One way or another – you’ll only have to do so for a couple of weeks or so – but it is nevertheless very important that it is clear to all that read your posts that, not to put into overly technical terms, you know Jack.

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        1. Trevor Mealham

          I can’t do that PeeBee, as more than just me share various opinions that AM/OTM was wrong, including many legal beagles that are way above your platform or mine.

          So not too many days/weeks and we should all find out the outcome.

           

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          1. PeeBee

            “I can’t do that PeeBee, as more than just me share various opinions that AM/OTM was wrong…”

            Mr Mealham – I don’t give a fuppenny about what opinion anyone might share – it is just that…

            …AN OPINION – .nothing more.

            Therefore it should be qualified as such when stated.

            Come the judges decision – you can choose to dance the night away or drown your sorrows in cider.

            But I would like to know one thing, Mr Mealham –

            What do you honestly expect this entire sorry episode in our industry’s history – whatever the decision – will have achieved for you, personally or professionally?

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  9. smile please

    Always amazed that when ever a pro OTM or anti Z thread comes out we have all these new posters.

    AND

    They always seem to be against independents – How odd?!

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    1. Digital Expert

      It’s almost as if it’s an interesting debate Smile, eh?

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  10. James Morris

    Our industry was ‘doomed’ the moment it became a case of “What portals do you use? Do you advertise on RM?” whenever you carried out a valuation and to be honest, it’s our fault to ramming it down our client’s necks about how important it is to ‘be on the portals’. You try and explain that we do this and that and it falls on deaf ears.

    I hope OTM come out of this ok because lets face it, whether you support them or not, if it goes under we are back to square one.

    Zoopla at No. 2 and quite happy to sit there (as we the independents continue to fund the big three at the same time) whilst RM continue to increase their prices for the same service year upon year.

    Funny thing is if we are said no, you know what, forget your portals, houses would still be sold/let and the wheels would keep on turning.

    But as is evident from replies on here we’d rather carry on like sheep, throwing money at them than do anything about it.

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    1. observer

      It falls on deaf ears because people selling their home are also likely to be buying a home and what do they do?

      They look on the portals.

      That’s why they want to be on the portals. It’s not because of agents ramming it down their throats.

      Buyer behaviour has changed from the 1980s, agents need to change too.

      Done anything innovative recently? Or just the same old tired approach?

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      1. James Morris

        They look on portals because agents advertise on portals.

        Stop advertising on portals and bingo, problem disappears.

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        1. observer

          Users/buyers do not want to search across hundreds of local agents.

          Vendors do not want their buyers to do the same.

          That is why agents cannot and will not act together because their incentives are not aligned. This is capitalism not communism. What AM need to do is align the incentives of agents so that it is in all their best interests to work together. How they do that is the big question.

          Simply creating a me-too portal was never the answer as RM & ZPG are too powerful.

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          1. SJEA

            I agree with your point almost entirely,

            RM & Z are ‘too powerful’ as they are serviced by us as agents.

            Take away the supply to the big two and people will find the properties on another website.

            Hypothetically speaking, if ALL agents advertised ALL of their properties on one site, surely this would be a benefit to the buyers and tenants our there.

            The only disadvantage is the profit making firms servicing their shareholders would miss out on huge payouts paid for by our ever increasing subscriptions.

            The likes of PB can only continue to survive if RM & Z are successful.

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            1. observer

              You are absolutely right in that buyers and tenants would prefer one source for all their properties.

              Why then does OTM charge agents?

              What if OTM had launched, free to advertise for all agents forever, no one other portal rule?

              Monetise it by only charging for additional advertising like featured properties, premium listings etc. Ok, maybe it doesn’t make huge money, but you could then strive for 100% market inventory and a position to work from.

              Currently you have a me-too portal with less reach and less inventory.

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              1. Ric

                When last looked it cost more than a couple of hundred quid to launch a property portal which could compete with RM & Z.

                I’ve asked on many an occasion and had no response, so serious this time.

                IF I set up ric.co.uk (promise I own better domain names) will you all come on for free…. and pay me say £100 a month for logo displays and a few extra option features.

                PS – If nobody wants features, will someone help me pay for the running of the website, as I can’t do this for nothing.

                I assume observer in your plan Feature/Products were mandatory? as optional could cause you a bit of pain with no takers.

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                1. observer

                  You’ve missed the point again in saying “Pay me £100 a month”.

                  WHY?

                  There was buy in from the industry for AM and for a change.

                  Independents wanted this.

                  And yet with this one other portal rule, the exact copying of business model from RM/ZPG, that good will was thrown to the wind.

                  There was not one single innovative thing with OTM at launch.

                  How about monetising by taking a percentage of commission for any vendor leads?

                  Or selling property software as has been mentioned elsewhere.

                  There are a 100 different ways of monetising a portal that has total property coverage.

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                  1. Ric

                    I’ve not missed your point, I just couldn’t imagine anyone spending millions setting up a rival site to RM and Z, plus creating a slick cloud based software package on the basis of no fixed monthly income just the hope I can get paid per click.

                    Chicken n Egg – You have to have deep pockets to enter the world of property portals and software I would imagine, especially if the end goal is Number 1. So get me to number one and perhaps pay-per-click or external advertising may work…. but how do you get to number 1?

                    Z have wasted millions failing to do so.

                    Who is going to design the web, set it up, keep it running, design the software, set it up, deal with my new 10,000 client customer base (estate agents asking why has the upload not worked)

                    2, 3, 4 10 staff – will they work per click? or expect to get paid, I need the best to compete, so what £30k, £50k salary basic?

                    I would come on board if you can show me the model which works…..

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    2. Ric

      Exactly James.

      My new worry is Z being number 1 in agency software and other data collection industries, which can be equally damaging for us.

      Z like you say, will sit happily at No.2 knowing they have other ways of extracting our money, leaving RM to continue the stronghold.

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      1. SJEA

        Ric,

        Do you think if OTM provided a software platform for all of their members – probable would not take too much to implement, would drive more agents to use their services ?

        Z have been very clever in buying the software providers as agents that may not be using Z are still providing them with the valuable data that they need to sell their other services !

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        1. Ric

          SJEA – I said they should have done this BEFORE they even launched.

          It was in my opinion and ABSOLUTE no brainer to have developed a cloud based system as an option alongside it membership. COMPLETE CONTROL OVER our data….. try and argue against that in court!

          No brainer, no brainer no brainer.

          I’ve just handed in notice and 3 weeks of swapping away from ZPG/Encore Live, as seeing that ZooplaPro logo at the top of my screen infuriates me and proves, Encore is now Zoopla!

           

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          1. PeeBee

            Alto is exactly the same, Ric.

            How can it possibly be claimed that there is no crossover?

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            1. Ric

              Anything PSG is now Z full stop as you say PeeBee.

              Why an earth do I not have Rightmove and OTM logos on the software!

              Really think AM missed a trick with this and could have had OTM Portal talking with OTM Agency software, get a few fancy pants things where the public can communicate with agents better, some smart interaction giving member agents USP and all of a sudden….

              Agents and the public have a reason to use OTM.

              So many opportunities to be different would have arisen with OTM Software.

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              1. James Morris

                This is why we are doing our own thing, sick and tired of throwing cash at companies that has relations to Z and RM

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                1. Ric

                  Good on ya James.

                  We’ve found a smaller software provider which I hope stays small and doesn’t sell out.

                  Some fantastic features they offer also.

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  11. Digital Expert

    I see On The Market’s doing well. This whole episode has really done wonders for Ian Leggit’s ‘reputation’.

    *gets popcorn*

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    1. PeeBee

      Come out of retirement just for that single nugget, ‘Digital Expert’?

      Report
      1. Digital Expert

        Miss me?

        Report
        1. PeeBee

          Yeah – in the same way I imagine I would ‘miss’ H£rpe$…

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          1. Digital Expert

            Finally cleared up, eh? That’s good news. Be careful!

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  12. mrharvey

    You’ll have to forgive my ignorance because I’m not following this story very closely – but it seems a lot of you are invested in this case and have a wide range of opinions on its outcome.

    I have a couple of questions:

    1) What, at this point, is the most likely outcome? (if there isn’t one, please ignore these questions)

    2) What is the benefit of this outcome?

    3) What is the drawback of this outcome?

    4) As a member of the public who doesn’t know anything about the inner workings of the property industry… why should I care? How am I affected?

     

    Short answers preferable as I would like a very basic overview on what we think.

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    1. PeeBee

      How much time have you got to sift through the multitude of possible responses you will get to your post – from those on opposing ends of the rope in this tiresome tug-of-war?

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    2. Digital Expert

      You will not find many objective views on this subject, Mr Harvey. Here’s my attempt:

       

      The most likely outcome is the dropping of the one other portal ruling

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      1. AgentV

        I am looking on the optimistic side that whatever the outcome….. AM and OTM will grow bigger and stronger, because if nothing else they will start to listen to their member agents and potential member agents more, the independent industry will start to appreciate fully we really can only defend our businesses and what we offer with a collective voice, and the general public subsequently will start to hear the true worth of what we offer!!!

        The truth will get out…..you don’t get the best result from elective surgery by going on a website, following the directions with advice from a stander by, and then operating on yourself on the kitchen table

        …you use a well established highly experienced professional person to guide and carry out the whole process for you….otherwise you are equally likely to die from lack of aftercare and post surgery infection.

        So why would you not do the same for selling your biggest asset in life…your home.

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      2. Digital Expert

        Half of my comment is suddenly invisible.

        ‘Strange’.

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        1. PeeBee

          It’s only ‘strange’ if it wasn’t removed as being in breach of previous notifications of posting etiquette.

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          1. Digital Expert

            It wasn’t. It was perfectly polite. And accurate, as always.

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            1. Digital Expert

              And I have never been approached or warned about posting etiquette. Ever.

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              1. PeeBee

                And I have never been approached or warned about posting etiquette. Ever.”

                Oh, but you have, Sir – several times.

                You just haven’t bothered to read them because they aren’t entitled ‘Zoopla does this…’ or ‘OTM does that…’.

                Kinda flags up your entire ‘Digital Agenda’ – dunnit?

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                1. Digital Expert

                  No I haven’t, and being told off by you for getting you riled up doesn’t count.

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                  1. PeeBee

                    Tell you what – YOU’RE the ‘Digital Expert’ – YOU search for the many posts and at least two headed articles that have been added to the site by Nick, Ros etc advising of posting etiquette.

                    If you get stuck – perhaps Robert will let you into the secret of a decent search.

                    Tool.

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                    1. PeeBee

                      OOPS – pesky autocorrect!

                      Of course, that last line should have read

                      “If you get stuck – perhaps Robert will let you into the secret of a decent search tool.”

                      Will have to watch for that little glitch in future… assuming I ever use that phrase again – to the same poster – that is…

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    3. Ric

      1) What, at this point, is the most likely outcome? Reading this OTM loss but if there is an OTM Win then:

      2) What is the benefit of this outcome?

      OTM Loss =Nothing, other than the end of OTM pleasing the Anti-AM brigade.

      OTM Win = Possibly more clients for OTM as agents who have said wouldn’t join because the OOP was anti competitive may feel otherwise, knowing no legal come back – or they are just hiding behind this excuse.

      3) What is the drawback of this outcome?

      OTM loss = RM fee increases forever and ever, a clear sign Z do not care about at least 6,000 agents.

      OTM Win = Harder for the portals to raise fees without consideration to market conditions etc as agents will have more choice, at the minute the truth is RM could increase fees by 20% a year, we would be stuck with it.  

      4) As a member of the public who doesn’t know anything about the inner workings of the property industry… why should I care? How am I affected?

      Both outcomes. You’re not, this is an industry thing, the public DO NOT CARE – you will still be able to see all house over, 1, 2 or 3 websites.

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      1. mrharvey

        Thanks Ric, that’s all I need to know.

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  13. Beano

    Forget all this, whos up for starting the anti competition suit against rightmove for overcharging?

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    1. Digital Expert

      Wasn’t that why you were all so excited at the prospect of joining OTM and leaving Rightmove?

      Oh, that’s right…

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  14. AgentV

    Hypothetically speaking – If all independent agents belonged to a union and that union had talks with ‘a portal’ about the ongoing rising costs of membership, talks broke down and the union recommended all its members to vote on strike action resulting in withdrawing from that portal…and they did so after a majority vote conforming to rules….would that then be classified as an illegal ‘collective’ decision??

    Can anyone who knows more than I please give some guidance? If it would be illegal, how does that then stand with current trade union practices? Is there a significant difference?

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    1. observer

      I can’t comment on the legality of that but I’m pretty sure your customers (you know the homeowners who pay you) probably wouldn’t be too pleased. I imagine it goes against the estate agent version of the hippocratic oath to do the best by your customer.

      A customer would look at it like this:

      “You are supposed to be selling my property. Rightmove/ZPG/AN Other is a very effective way of advertising my property for a very reasonable fee. If your business model can’t afford that advertising, I will use another agent that can. I couldn’t care less about those meanies charging you more money.”

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      1. AgentV

        Portals don’t sell properties…they just generate more interest. Agents sell properties.

        We use lots of other ways of generating interest in a property as well…but back to the point in hand. The current rules say you can only use two out of three portals, and many agents only use one. Therefore if an agent union, backed by a legal member vote, decided to leave one portal and move to another because it offered the better service or less cost…whatever….would that be an illegal collective action?

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        1. Trevor Mealham

          The OOPr seems to have different applications. FT.com and INEA.co.uk and others were on the unofficial ban list too.  In N Ireland agents could opt to have some properties on some portals such as RM whilst the rest of their stock might be on Z or Property Pl etc etc.  ie different rules to the English agents AM/OTM contracts.

          Also why have many N Irish agents left OTM and not been hit via court action.

          Its becoming clear that AM/OTM ws looking for a fair sized agent to make a test case out of. Even when Savills or Strutt & Parker breached the OOPr, action wasn’t taken. Interestingly Strutt and Savills were founding members. Which is seriously naughty.

          Appears there was rules for some and different rules for others. A bit rich Mr S having a OOPr, when he treated AM members differently.

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  15. AgencyInsider

    So INEA was on a purported banned list. Would that explain your virulent, repetitive, and (forgive me) irritating antipathy to OTM?

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    1. Robert May

      I have some sympathy for Trevor being on the banned list but it does show the OOPR wasn’t just about Zoopla. In reality the OOPR worked as much against OTM as it did its competitors; it was one of the main reasons 73% of the industry didn’t join AM.

      As I said in a previous post the OOPR was sited as a reason  why people didn’t want to join LPI but I respected that, it meant LPI wasn’t  as compelling as AM to agents in the trial area. When OTM launched it had fewer properties listed than LPI. The OOPR wasn’t anti competiitive at all, it made me a stronger competitor not a weaker or disadvantaged one.

      Blaming  the competition for your own  failings doesn’t make products better or more competitive.

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    2. Trevor Mealham

      @ AgencyInsider

      YES

      . …. and also thank you to Robert for his comment.  Before the start of AM/ OTM I emailed to offer an olive branch to try and help and support it as a group for agents. But Springett didnt respond.

      I only became anti AM/OTM when a software boss called me to say at a closed door meeting INEA had become the next platform to be black listed.  On writing again and again Ian Springett was rude in that he didnt even respond.

      As such if an agent did OTM + RM – or OTM and Zoopla. Simply Springetts OOPR (even though INEA is 90% a MLS), meant in his eyes we were totally blocked.

       

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      1. PeeBee

        Mr Mealham

        Your ‘platform’/portal/whatever-you-wish-to-call-it – your whole system – encourages Agents to list everywhere on the backs of others. If ‘Agent ‘X’ is on RM and Agent ‘Y’ is on Z you jump up and down that they can each offer the same listings on both – so clearly your little club would be bringing properties to the OTM table that people could find on both other portals – thus defeating the object of the OOPR.

        You would be using OTM. ABUSING OTM.

        You know all this – you actively boast about it – and yet you feign wonder and horror why your ‘portal’ (as you have described it yourself on many occasions) was excluded.

        Beggars belief.

        I ask again the question above, Sir:

        What do you honestly expect this entire sorry episode in our industry’s history – whatever the decision – will have achieved for you, personally or professionally?

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        1. Trevor Mealham

          Actually, what youve raised isn’t our main thing PeeBee.

          Yesterday a property completed on the Romney Marsh. The main agent Alexander Fleming (a good traditional in Hythe High Street) who does RM and Z achieved an offer of £200k.  The sub agent (we had around 5) who found the buyer did so from New Romney Hg Street from a walk in.

          As such neither Alexander Fleming or Andrew & Co did OTM.  But the sub agents being a few miles down the road picked up interest from their window, which generated the winning offer at £225k.  The vendor was very chuffed even though AF sole rate is normally 1%, the vendor happily opted for 2% for AF to sub out.

          So yes portals are good, but my thing is more about what agents bring to the table B2B away from portals.

          The WHICH report last year showed 43% of solds don’t come from main portals. That’s my real buzz the value of agents different efforts that max reach to most buyers.

          In this instance RM, Z and OTM played no part in achieving a best price.

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          1. Trevor Mealham

            Sorry blooper PeeBee.

            The WHICH report showed that 57% of buyers didnt come as a result of main portals.  The article was along the lines of:

            Only four in 10 find new homes on property portalsRead more: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2016/08/only-four-in-10-find-new-homes-on-property-portals-451429/ – Which?

            Portals are very very good at what they do. It would take £100m to try and reach a 2nd portal slot.  So INEA is a system that doesn’t go head on with portals. Instead we try to help agents lever:

            **on the backs of others.

            But geared more towards the sub agents having different applicants, maybe local publication ads, attracting punters by being seen with most SOLD boards up for 4-5 miles etc. So the bits more to the point that a main agent may not be doing or have access to in the same way as another local agent. ie maybe the sub agent is in a busier or different location, or is a specialist, ie land or commercial or equestrian or period homes type agent

            Equally, if agent A gets 2-3 offers on 23 The Street, Somewhere, they can only sell or let it once. But Agent B-C-D-E-F up the road may have No.32 or 56 The Street, Somewhere.  As such it makes sense for agents to B2B if one has access to an ideal buyer or tenant and the other agent the listing.

            Maybe Agent A did get 3 offers via RM or Z or OTM. So what, if agent A only has one listing there, yet agent B-C-D-E-F (who may not be on some portals has another 1-2 applicant viewer (buyers), whats wrong?

            MLS is about agents helping one another. Portals take listings up. Portals don’t facilitate other agents listings willing to collaborate back down. MLS does.

            It’s not a hard pitch either to offer clients sole at x% yet wider exposure with 4-5-6 further local agents at 0.25% to 1% higher than their normal sole rate.

            Its what portals don’t do that interests me more than what they do do.

            It’s just old fashioned agency PeeBee that as agents we did pre RM and Z.

            You’ve been in the game a long time, you often talk sense (then blow it with a blow 🙂

            But ask if you had got a listing on RM, Z, OTM even on the moon, opened 6 days a week, had great photo’s. If the agent up the road hd an ideal buyer and the owner wanted out of a divorce, or to get their child into a school catchment area and you could help by B2B and the seller had no issue at 0.5% more. As a broker agent rather than just a lone agent, wouldn’t you, your client and the other agent all benefit.

            It’s what agents can and could do that interests me most. Not what portals are already doing.

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  16. PeeBee

    As Mr Mealham didn’t like my last response to the above two posts I will say only this…

    Do you just post whatever you would like us to believe, Mr Mealham?

    To post whatever you would like us to read INSTEAD of what some would see as the real reasoning behind the veracity of an apparent mission against AM/OTM and its’ Membership?

    And – for what reason?  Above, all you are banging on about is how the portals offer nothing to Estate Agency.

    About how INeffective they are as a marketing tool.

    About how a picture in a shop window allegedly resulted in an offer 12.5% higher than the Agent who had exhausted the might of the portals – whose position of tail wagging the dog you apparently seek to strengthen by your involvement in this sorry episode in our industry’s history.

    Yet – Agents Mutual and their own portal offering – OTM – is in my opinion portrayed by you as some demonic entity that must be exorcised from this world, leaving RM & Z to continue unchallenged for the rest of time.

    ALL THIS for a portal – a mere marketing tool – and one that you give such little credit to in the Estate Agent’s role as finder of buyer or tenant for their client’s property?

    Is THAT better, Mr Mealham?  More ‘acceptable’?

    Or shall I just give you my Log-In details so you can write one for me that you’re happy with?

     

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    1. PeeBee

      A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would have been more polite, Mr Mealham…

      Report
  17. Woodentop

    There you go again, insults! No-one has proven that colluding actually took place. For a group of people to be present and mention who they may or may not leave is not colluding. That is law, but you an expert on law? so you should know that. Colluding is to act together, but requires the parties to actually discuss and implement jointly. Being in a room where agents make comment but do not make a joint decision is not colluding.

     

    At the AM meeting I attended the subject of other portal was raised. Get real does anyone think that wasn’t going to happen. But no-one took any joint decision to who they would leave, many said it wasn’t an issue as they were only on RM anyway. I can conform that the people from AM made it perfectly clear it was down to individual agents to make their choice and never entered into any discussion.

    Report
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