There was frustration in the British estate agency industry yesterday as the so-called 'big three' portals declined to attend a debate that was to be led by industry figure Russell Quirk.
The 'Question Time' debate was supposed to feature representatives of Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket as well as those from challenger portals OneDome and Boomin. The event was advertised as a discussion on how the "interaction between innovation and consumer behaviour will shape the UK residential market and estate agents alike."
According to Quirk, OneDome and Boomin were happy to participate with Zoopla also initially consenting. OnTheMarket declined with CEO Jason Tebb taking to Linkedin to put his company's lack of participation down to a 'closed period' leading up to the company's interim results while it seems that Rightmove may not have responded to the invitation at all.
Quirk, who runs a specialist PR company, has a reputation for asking difficult questions and sparking debate in his opinion pieces. He took the portals' no-show poorly, using his column in agent industry publication PIE this morning to compare their avoidance of questioning to that of Prince Andrew.
The UK portal industry is worth some £9bn with the market leader among the most profitable portal firms in the world. There has long been a desire among British estate agents to take the big portal companies to task with regards to their treatment of their customers and their attitude towards innovation.
Since its poor initial handling of the covid crisis in April 2020 Rightmove has kept a low profile and, truth be told, was never likely to participate in an event with the potential to generate negative headlines and change the status quo. As soon as it became clear that Rightmove wouldn't participate, Zoopla pulled out and the debate was rendered null and void.