UK industry regulator, the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team (NTSEA), has confirmed it will investigate allegations agents are falsifying their listings online to make themselves look more successful.
The allegations were raised by Chris Wood, of Cornish firm PDQ Estates this year and followed up by industry news agency Property Industry Eye (EYE).
EYE says Wood is among a group of agents infuriated by the alleged practices by which other agents manipulate market share by falsified listings.
He says examples include the relisting of properties, usually with different prices; continuing to list properties that have been sold; and marketing properties that were never theirs to list.
According to the EYE report, Wood is claiming there are a number of agents who are manipulating their listings on Rightmove and Zoopla at the expense of those agents who play by the rules, and that the practice is also misleading the public.
The report says Rightmove is already carrying out its own investigation into 'portal juggling' allegations which have been put to it by several agents.
In an email, obtained by Property industry Eye, the regulator is reported to have told Wood that the allegations he has made “will be investigated and followed through”.
The investigator has promised: “It will be a matter for early discussion and action following the Easter break.”
In an earlier EYE report, Wood was reported to have told the investigator that there is a “substantial and significant body of evidence” indicating that some agents are “deliberately falsifying listings on the two main property portals”.
Wood has also claimed: “The lack of enforcement . . . is allowing consumers to be misled, law-abiding businesses to be disadvantaged to lose business and [is] making a mockery of the laws of this land into the process.”
A group of agents has united via Twitter to exchange their concerns.
Wood told EYE on March 21 he is "expressly concerned that agents who falsify their listings are distorting their market share at the expense of those agents who play by the rules".
Meanwhile, the report adds, Wood has withdrawn his threat to stop paying Rightmove his monthly subscriptions after being warned that withholding payment would breach the terms and conditions of membership.
Wood had earlier alleged that Rightmove itself was breaching its own terms and conditions in relation to data quality.
“I am sure that Rightmove would wish to distance itself from any of its customers breaking the law so flagrantly and would also wish to be seen to be taking a firm stand,” EYE quotes Wood as telling the portal.
Rightmove’s commercial director of agency Jason Bushby is reported to have told Wood in an email that direct action is taken with agents suspected of wrongdoing, although such details would not be disclosed.
In addition the email points to Rightmove's application of filters to catch various listing issues citing the removal of $88,000 sold properties as an example.
However Rightmove pointed out the ads may continue to be advertised in other places they are uploaded to, be it other portals or the agent’s own sites.
EYE quotes Bushby as saying Rightmove believes it needs to its "part (to) review our data quality processes to keep on top of it.”
Wood has posted a list of definitions for portal juggling on hos blog:
Portal juggling is a ‘cover-all’ term for a range of illegal practices whereby estate agents de-list and then re-list properties on property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla in order to: