Comments in the exclusive EYE story yesterday about our intention to refer Rightmove to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) made for interesting reading.
My view is that if there are agencies, large or small, with genuine grievances, that we should pool our evidence to build a stronger case.
In fact, the evidence from small, independent agents, if available en masse, is far more compelling and invidious to any Rightmove defence, as the CMA sees itself as the champion who can defend David against Goliath.
Big organisations such as ours, which like Righmove is a listed business, have access to resources to fight our corner.
For those agents who are interested, we will soon set out a methodical way of collecting case studies for presentation to the CMA.
We are in the process of taking legal counsel from a QC who specialises in competition law and will explain what evidence the CMA will want to consider.
At this stage, The Property Franchise Group is happy to meet the legal costs in this matter.
If we can persuade the CMA that there is a case to answer, then its own regulatory machinery takes over and it leads the investigation.
This is not a courtroom battle between us and Rightmove, and we should therefore not see a massive legal bill.
Only if there is such a very large volume of evidence to collate and organise to create the CMA submission, then might we pass the cap around for other agents hopefully to make a contribution.
Some of the respondents on EYE have been extremely vocal that now is the time to “punish” Rightmove and remove stock from the site in a protest gesture.
I don’t think that this is the correct approach for a number of reasons:
- Your clients may expect that their property is being displayed on Rightmove, and you may even have contractually promised such. Your client is your principal and you should not damage their interests, breach their trust or fail to deliver on your contractual promises.
- I cannot know what you have contractually agreed with Rightmove about supplying it with your available stock and you should be careful not to breach your agreement with Rightmove.
- I don’t believe that sufficient agents would take the necessary action to make any serious impact on the customer experience.
- It’s harder than you think, as most agents will have software which auto-feeds properties to Rightmove, typically with only changes to the stock being updated. Therefore, you would have to tell your software company to disable the feed and Rightmove would still hold all of your previously displayed properties on its servers, so the site would not go “blank” – it would just continue to display gradually less and less fresh stock.
We are all professional business people trying to promote our agencies and protect our margins.
We don’t need to take this kind of renegade action.
Instead we should use the CMA route to get a fair hearing for our grievances, and potentially an enduring rebalancing of the commercial power between this dominant supplier and the rest of the industry.
* Ian Wilson is CEO of The Property Franchise Group