Court rules that the portal did not defame the real estate agent profession or act illegally as an agent itself
In a case that is the talk of the French property industry press, the for-sale-by-owner property portal De Particulier a Particulier, known as PAP.fr, was found not to have defamed the real estate agent profession in the country in a case brought by the agent association FNAIM.
A commercial court in Paris dismissed the allegations brought by an incensed agents association against a portal with which it has had several run-ins. The case centred around accusations that the FSBO portal effectively acted as an agent without a licence and that its marketing campaign, which includes the slogan “What if the best estate agent was you?”, denigrated the profession. FNAIM is reportedly appealing the decision and was far from conciliatory in a statement sent to Le Figaro (a magazine which itself owns and operates a property portal of the same name) after the case’s conclusion:
“It’s unfair competition and they have made it a pillar of their communication, while denigrating our regulated professionals. We deplore it and will go to the end of this procedure.” [Translated from French]
PAP.fr, which calls itself an alternative to real estate agency, offers what it calls a “Coaching Immo” product through which it allows owners to advertise their property on the portal and, crucially, take prospective buyers on a virtual tour of the property for €690. This last point seems to have been the main bone of contention for the agents group which claimed that this constituted agency work for which PAP does not hold a licence, a claim which the court ultimately rejected.
This month’s ruling is only the latest in a series of feuds and litigation between FNAIM and PAP which started way back in 1992. The latest round of which appears to have been sparked by an interview with PAP President Corinne Jolly who on being asked whether she wanted agencies dead replied “At the price they are today, yes. It is too expensive.”
The strong feeling around this case clearly mirrors some of the vitriol directed by agents in the UK towards Purple Bricks and recently towards Zillow by US realtors. The interests behind the battle might be seen on some level to mirror those in the UK as well as FNAIM as an agent group owns and operates French property portal Bien’Ici which is in competition with PAP for user attention.