How to get your properties off Houser – complain to US web hosting company

An agent has succeeded in getting his properties removed from controversial site Houser a week after he first requested it.

Mark Rowe, of RPS Estate and Letting Agents in Lee on the Solent, Hampshire, wrote to Houser’s US hosting company, Rackspace, claiming copyright infringement.

abuse@rackspace.com emailed back, saying: “I’m writing on behalf of Rackspace in regards to a copyright infringement notice.

“Our client has notified us that the material in question has been removed and that they are in compliance. Please review the site in question to make a determination of compliance. If there are any outstanding issues with this matter please let me know so that I can take the necessary action to resolve this matter.

“Please contact us within the next 14 days. If we do not hear from you by 2/5/2015 we will consider this matter resolved. Thank you.”

The resolution achieved by Rowe comes after he and other agents have been in contact with Eye, frustrated by their properties still being on Houser despite requests for removal.

There has also been some anxiety expressed as to allegedly incorrect listings –for example, properties being shown on Houser as available when they have been sold or are under offer, and houses being shown as flats.

Eye has also asked Houser for an update on the removals process, but have had no reply from the firm or its founder Rocky Mirza.

Rowe had also tried to complain to local Trading Standards but was baffled to be told to report the matter first to Citizens Advice.

However, Rowe’s action in going to the hosting company has clearly been effective.

Rowe believes that other agents can use the same letter to similar effect, and he is happy for them to use his letter as a template –although of course you may want to make some adaptations.

You will need to send the letter – which gives a URL to an Eye story – on company headed paper.

 

Legal Department

Rackspace US, Inc

1 Fanatical Place

City of Windcrest

San Antonio

TX 78218

Mail stop: US 109-2301

 

Date (eg January 23, 2015)

 

Re: DMCA Notice, under Section 512 copyright of the DMCA www.houser.co.uk

 

Dear Sirs,

I own an estate and letting agency in [place, eg AnyTown] UK.

I learned last week that a website that Rackspace are hosting (www.houser.co.uk) is displaying our properties that we have for sale and to let. This data has been scraped from our own website without permission.

At no point have I signed up for this site to display my clientsproperties and I have attempted to contact the owners on a number of occasions both by email and phone over the last week to have the profile and property information removed. Each time I have phoned or emailed I have had the promise that it would be removed but it is still showing. Our profile can be found here [ ]

 Identification of copyright activity [link to your firms properties on Houser]

 The images and property descriptions are scraped data that we own the copyright to and I wish to be removed.

Our information and copyrighted information is available on our own website [insert what it says on your own site]

I am not alone in that there are thousands of other agents across the UK that have had their data scraped and are also not wanting to be on there. Please read this article for more information.

https://www.propertyindustryeye.com/agree-dont-care-customers-houser-tells-agents/

My contact information:

[Give your full contact information, including name, name of company, full postal address, phone number and email]

 Statement:

I can confirm that the information provided is accurate and under penalty or perjury, that I am the copyright owner and authorized to act as the owner and have exclusive rights to the photos descriptions and company profile information being displayed.

Yours sincerely,

(Signature)

Name and position

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20 Comments

  1. Trevor Mealham

    No tech company should take agents data then hold it hostage until demands are met. Contacting Trading Standards in the websites home town might be the next step. Too many techs really screw with the industry at times which is so wrong.

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    1. Trevor Gillham

      You will never beat scraping, they can just transfer all the data to another site in minutes and carry on. One thing I can't understand though, when they get a lead do they then manually forward it to the agent as they would not have the email address via the scrape. Sounds a waste of time, I think companies like OTM will have to step up and take these sites to court because it's conflicting with their one other portal rule and it's out of the agents hands. Also, are these sites really considered portals?

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      1. Trevor Mealham

        @ Trevor G – thats if the one portal rule would stand up? It could back fire in the interest of the consumer. The only real rules are CPR's and BPR's and those are set by the UK government entities, not commercial companies trading as portals

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        1. Trevor Mealham

          @ Trevor G – also OTM would have no reason unless elected as representative of the agent to take this to court as the issue is between Houser and the agent. The agent may also try the Advertising Standards Authority. It could also be said that not-permitted Houser scraping content without permission and using it to pull the public in (could) if other services are offered be seen as trading off – the agents good will.

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    2. calleb

      Trading standards now sift all enquiries through citizens advice central number. I believe the matter has been reported to Trading Standards a number of times. Good plan by Mark Rowe tho. Well done.

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      1. Trevor Mealham

        Trading Standards UK estate agency team leader is James Munro – James is very approachable. His office no. is 01597 826031

        Report
  2. Ewan Foreman

    Aspects of Houser's launch feel rather too much like the big kid bullying the small kid in the school playground for my liking. In our enthusiasm to assist OTM to gain early traction we all need to remember what the moral high ground actually looks like.

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  3. marcH

    Great initiative (but is that address for real: 1 Fanatical Place ?!). To Ewan Foreman, so you think letting the pickpocket get off free or even better showing him your other full pocket is appropriate? Think you need to put your head where your heart is sometimes.

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    1. MarkRowe

      Hi @marcH. The address is real and Rackspace is nothing to do with Houser apart from being their hosting provider, they have an obligation to ensure that the sites they host for their clients adhere to copyright law. It's just a helpful article for any other agents wishing to take their properties and profile information off the site quickly.

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    2. Ewan Foreman

      @marcH. Or my head where my hip is – no thanks!

      Report
  4. Taff

    Just a thought, but bearing in mind that a lot of agents will be dropping off RM or Z next week, can we all gauge how much of an impact this will have on RM and Z. My point is, there are bound to be statistics flying all over the shop post launch, so we need a real “Before” and “After” picture to see what is really happening – otherwise we will just get bogged down with spin and percentages. Eg a week ago I filled in a table of all the properties listed on RM and Z in my county and my town. I had to do them in price batches because RM will only allow 1,000 properties per search. I will do the same again early in February (I think all our properties drop off RM on the 1st Feb) to see how many properties each website has gained or lost, either side of OTM launch. The RM man reckoned they would lose “between 1% and 2%”. Personally, I think he’s way off the mark, but it would be interesting to compare local, regional and national figures.

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  5. pooleagent

    Has anyone actually had any enquiries from Houser yet? I've made a couple of test enquiries this morning but they haven't landed in my inbox as yet!

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    1. calleb

      pooleagent, my tests took 24 hours to reach office inbox.. Interestingly my listings have now been removed..

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      1. Trevor Gillham

        24 hours is WAY too long, makes you look sloppy, so they are actually doing you real harm.

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      2. wilko

        Did you do the 2 unreasonable tick boxes on the form?

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        1. wilko

          Sorry last comment to Calleb

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          1. calleb

            Yes and no – one form i ticked all the boxes and wrote a disclaimer in the freehand box, screen dumped the pages and kept copies (just in case) I also sent the screen dumped form with unchecked boxes to them in every other way i could think of – facebook message, twitter, email..

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    2. Trevor Mealham

      @ pooleagent – maybe they are too busy with fictitious enquiries 🙂 Seems crazy they are not automating as enquiries come in. For manual intervention maybe other filtering is in place. ie are your properties being used as bait to sell other services. If so Trading Standards have 31 banned practices of which one is ''Bait and Switch''

      Report
  6. Woodentop

    The average Trading Standards officer will not have a clue, which is why they will try and side step. Hold your ground and ask for "criminal proceedings" investigation. Should they fail to follow through, they are in the dog house.

    Report
    1. Trevor Mealham

      Have faith – they're not all bad. Go through to James as per above contact details and he will look into/appoint with guidance as fit.

      Report
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