UK industry consultant Iain White has sent a letter to disenchanted OnTheMarket member agents calling on them to attend a meeting in London with a lawyer on May 9 Property Industry Eye (EYE) reports.
White, whose clients include online fashion retailer Choices and whose chairman is Simon Shinerock says no press will be allowed at the meeting, but that media announcements will be made afterwards after checks with barristers.
EYE adds it is not clear who will be bankrolling this legal bill or "what looks to be a PR campaign".
In the letter White claims there are three categories of agents likely to attend: those who have given notice and have received a threat of legal action; those who would like to leave OTM but are concerned about legal action, or have already given notice but not received any threat of legal action; and agents who have recently joined OTM but now believe they have made a mistake.
White also asks if agents will consent to have their names passed to the press and industry commentators.
A spokesperson for OTM told EYE: “We are aware from extensive coverage on the property news forums that there is a campaign to convene a meeting between some agents, a consultant called Iain White and a firm of lawyers.
“We understand that some agents have claimed to ‘feel misled into signing up with OTM’ and that some others ‘believe they have made a mistake and would like to leave OTM’.
“Any agent who signed up with Agents’ Mutual did just that – they signed a contract. The contract laid out very clearly their obligations to pay monthly fees for an agreed period and to list their properties at OnTheMarket.com and a maximum of one other portal.
“We have always been conscientious about seeking appropriate independent legal advice about contractual issues."
Meanwhile National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) managing director Mark Hayward has answered an accusation that there is a conflict of interest for him to lead the NAEA while also sitting on the board of Agents' Mutual.
According to a separate report in EYE, Independent Network of Estate Agents (INEA) chief executive Trevor Mealham's has called for Hayward to resign.
EYE reports Mealham has written to the CMA saying that Hayward should not be both “a poacher and gamekeeper”, and that future reference to him should describe his links to Agents’ Mutual.
He has also written to NAEA president Martyn Baum, arguing that Hayward is wearing two hats and “shouldn’t be allowed near anything that could influence the CMA”.
But Hayward tells EYE he has an unpaid position on the Agents Mutual board, representing members who are in turn members of OTM.
“The NAEA is aware not all our members support OTM and we have never directed our members towards one portal over another.
“As a membership body we are at pains to ensure that our members are aware of their legal requirements and adhere to legislation.
“The CMA did not consult the NAEA as to the contents of the letter. They purely asked for a comment and for NAEA to ensure that it was circulated to all our members, which is of course what we have done.”
The calls to resign, from both Mealham and long term OTM detractor eMoov head Russell Quirk, come after the CMA last week published an open letter to agents warning them against colluding with each other over portal choices. Both Mealham and Quirk are unable to list properties on OTM.
Mealham has also called for the CMA to scrutinise all nine directors of Agents’ Mutual and the two directors of OnTheMarket.
Quirk has additionally called for OTM chief executive Ian Springett to resign.
NAEA managing director Mark Hayward was appointed a director of Agents’ Mutual, the firm which set up OTM, in October 2013, when the NAEA finally ditched its own ill-fated portal, PropertyLive.