Owner of UK portal On the Market (Agents Mutual) will be seeking compensation after a lengthy court case it launched against estate agents Gascoigne Halman, with a recent announcement that the competition appeal tribunal came down in favour of Agents Mutual.
In 2016, Agents’ Mutual sued estate agents Gascoigne Halman and Moginie James for damages in the High Court accusing them of breaking the terms of their agreements by listing properties on more than one other portal.
OTM’s chief executive Ian Springett has issued a statement about the case, explaining the portal will now be seeking compensation after the lengthy battle.
“The Competition Appeal Tribunal has now issued judgment in favour of Agents’ Mutual in relation to our legal proceedings against Gascoigne Halman.
“We are pleased that the Tribunal has confirmed the position maintained consistently by our Board that Agents’ Mutual’s strategy for entry to the portals market has been pro-competitive both in object and effect and that the business is operating within the law. The Tribunal has dismissed the challenge from Gascoigne Halman that Agents’ Mutual and its Members have behaved illegally or anti-competitively.
“All of the key terms of our listing agreements with agents and our membership eligibility rules have been upheld.
“The proceedings before the Tribunal have been running since July last year with the Trial completing in February. The manner in which our opponents conducted the case has caused us to divert considerable resources and management time, as was presumably intended by those, including Zoopla, who funded it.
“The full judgment is lengthy and complex but its conclusions are clear. We will now work with our legal team to recover costs and losses we have incurred as well as deposit monies lodged by us in Court to cover the position had the competition law case been lost.
“A residual, non-competition law element of the case against Gascoigne Halman is still to be completed.
“In the immediate term, we will be ramping up our marketing activity to restore the strong growth in consumer traffic and leads OnTheMarket.com was delivering over its first two years of operations.
“Looking further ahead, the Board has been working over the last few months on substantial new plans which will support the further development of OnTheMarket.com. These plans are well advanced but could not be finalised pending the outcome of the litigation. We will shortly be ready to share them with our Member firms. Our aim is to gain Members’ support for the new plans and be in a position to implement them from the end of August.
“The two largest incumbent portals continue to use agents’ hard-won property listings and their ever-increasing fees to generate super profits for their shareholders at the expense of their agent customers and they are defending their duopoly position vigorously. However, with an excellent online platform, the sustained support of thousands of high quality agents and a highly experienced team, OnTheMarket.com is well positioned to create a genuine alternative market-leading portal for agents and consumers alike.”
Read the full judgement here