Online agent considers legal challenge over Agents’ Mutual ban

Online agent Russell Quirk of eMoov is considering mounting a legal challenge to Agents’ Mutual.

He told Eye yesterday: “This would be on the basis that it is entirely unlawful to discriminate against one estate agent or another.

“Their statement, along the lines that they will not allow cheaper online agents to list, is blatantly anti-consumer and entirely about self-protection, as traditional estate agents are the owners of this portal.

“This clearly breaches the Competition Act 1998.

“I will be considering reporting them to the authorities where I understand the potential fine for discriminating in an anti-competitive manner is substantial.”

However, Quirk also said he did not think Agents’ Mutual will succeed.

He said: “I think Agents’ Mutual are doomed to mediocrity at best.

“They will have nowhere near enough consumer traction and not enough inventory or budget to gain that traction.”

Quirk also said that he was unworried by the potential for some inventory to vanish off both Rightmove and Zoopla.

He said: “My view is that we’re a long way from the consumers themselves reacting to any reduction in inventory on the two main portals.

“They will still visit RM and Zoopla in their droves, and so for me, that’s what matters, not any seeming reduction in inventory to, say, 900,000 homes from a million. Such a difference is irrelevant.

“And that’s what gets lost in the AM/ Rightmove/ Zoopla debate in that it is absolutely about what the consumer does and wants, not what a new portal or high street agent says they should want.”

Quirk also wrote an opinion piece for Eye following our story yesterday about eMoov’s TV advert and readers’ reactions. The piece is well worth reading – whatever your own opinions – and is in today’s newsletter.

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49 Comments

  1. SamAshdown

    It's not unlawful or contra to the Competition Act – Agents' Mutual is a member body – a 'mutual' organisation – and as such, it can have membership rules. Just like any other type of member body.
    Check your facts Russell.

    Sam

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  2. nosharkbait

    I wonder how consumers will feel if they realise how much power in property RM and Zoopla has? Who is in charge of the biggest survey companies?
    Good luck to Agent Mutual. Wish them the best. Online agents are you worried about competition?

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  3. Chri Wood

    Much as as I find Mr Quirks usual dubious, self-aggrandising bluster rather unpleasant; I believe he may have a point on this occasion. Membership clubs can have membership rules but, those rules must comply with the Law. For example, a club could not decide to exclude people of a certain race or religion.

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    1. wilko

      There are still many gentleman only clubs in london (no not that type)
      and many working mens clubs and golf clubs have male only bars etc.

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      1. UKLandlord

        Legally they are not entitled to refuse women service. I am a member of a few 'men-only' clubs however they have remained as such in name only. Women are more then welcome

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        1. wilko

          Cheers for the clarification.

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  4. Benay

    Brilliant! just as I get here and have time to post the one liner onliners turn up with their whinging and moaning EAT ways.

    Boo Hoo it's not fair Boo Hoo– get over yourself Quirk, get on a break out of that massive 2% grip you and your chums have got on the industry. You ain't gonna do it by whinging. You haven't got the cash or the nads for a legal challenge this is just rhet'

    I am surprised Ros has run this story- Quirk doesn't get an audience at EAT now EVERYONE has left so why bother running this on here it? It isn't really news just the sort of cheap self promotion that ruined EAT. I can see the need not to run another AM story but running this is just daft. Sorry Ros.

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    1. wilko

      I don't like to bring up the past but RQ has spent his agency career bleating about how poor his competitors are . For those that dont know about his past failures, where he tried to get ahead of the competition read this from an archive news article
      " A BRAVE Thurrock estate agent has promised to pay the difference should any house newly bought from him fall in price over five years.
      The incredible guarantee – the first of its kind – made by Russell Quirke, of family-run estate agent Quirke Deakin Thurrock, flies in the face of the current dismal house price forecast.
      But Russell has decided to prove, in Thurrock at least, there is no cause for alarm.
      And it seems he is prepared to put his money where his mouth is.
      He said: "We are confident that prices will not dip significantly and even if they drop a little, it will be very temporary and clients of Quirk Deakin Thurrock do not need to worry as long as they buy their property through us."
      Being based in Thurrock is the driving force behind Russell's confidence.
      He said: "Thurrock Council is spending several million pounds on Town Centre regeneration in Grays and the Thames Gateway expansion is encouraging huge redevelopments and jobs throughout the area."
      He added brightly: "Houses prices here will go up!
      "You could argue it is a gamble but my family and I have been in this business since 1957, and in my experience, it has never ever happened that prices have gone down and stayed down. "

      Prices, of couse tumbled significantly, and RQ walked away!

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      1. UKLandlord

        .. to pick himself up and start again. Success is measured by failure

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        1. Benay

          'you saying he has paid out on his promises or just phoenixed onto something new?

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          1. wilko

            What do you think?

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          2. Benay

            I have a good idea but just wanted to make the point to his besest mate who is all over here like a randy teenager chasing skirt

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  5. NewsBoy

    Go on Agents Mutual. Only Estate Agents please. Estate Agents have a bad enough name as it is without these "bit part players" getting more than their 1 or 2% of the market. Anyone remember Seekers? They had a not entirely dissimilar idea (and a similar market share). Upfront fees – no service – no sale – no comeback – bad luck Mr & Mrs Seller!

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  6. marcH

    Is it just me ?? If RQ really doesn't believe AM will succeed why is he ******* about them excluding his business from their portal ? Also, I think I heard him self-glorifying on Radio 4's Today prog this morning at around 6.15….had to get up smartish to throw up…..

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  7. Hybrid

    So what about agents like myself, who are local, offer a fantastic service, don't charge upfront fees, don't make charges for a sale boards, accompany all viewings, progress every deal etc etc… I just don't have a shop front. Can I not join the club?

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    1. Elbee

      We are in the same situation, Hybrid, running a home-based Lettings agency. I even emailed them challenging the claim that we are parasites but have yet to receive the courtesy of a reply. They are probably too busy thinking up new insults!

      I have now unsubscribed from their mailing list since it is pointless.

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      1. wilko

        Why are you concerned about not being accepted on AM?
        Like you said, you offer a fantastic service from home, so isn't that enough for you to forge on and continue with your success?

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        1. JAM01

          If you work from home you should qualify for membership for AM – same if you work from a serviced office. It is not the location of the office, or lack of it – it is being able to offer 'full service' estate agency and that is not the same as an online model.

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  8. agentx

    Faceless internet based sellers will only ever pick up a very small percentage of the market. The bulk of these, will be the sellers the traditional Estate Agents don't want. And lets be honest, when you are making one of the most important decisions with regard to your largest asset in life, who are you going to trust? An established business with a shop frontage and human beings you can converse with or a cyberspace mystery front which is probably a one man band, 300 miles away working from a laptop in bed wearing a onesie eating cheese on toast.

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  9. Michael

    Agents Mutual (or whatever it brands as) is of traditional estate agents and by traditional estate agents, and amongst its aspirations is to be a quality website where buyers and sellers who want to deal with quality will find it.
    Almost by definition, those buyers and sellers who are so very fee conscious that they gravitate toward the very cheapest level of service, which usually (but doubtless not always) means the online only agent with no office, are not the target audience that, in my opinion, Agents Mutual seeks to get involved with. I know these are generalisations but nevertheless they are, generally, correct.
    For example I have just noticed an ad, on Rightmove, for a house being marketed by an online company called House Simple. HS say that they visit all homes to photograph and take details and are estate agents. Had they looked at my own 2011 copy for that house they would have seen a note to the effectthat it is 50% non traditional Woolaway construction, approved (a little reluctantly) by the vendor. It never sold and 3 years later is again on the market but with no mention of any of this.
    In my opinion this is the sort of behaviour that a traditional agent would, I hope, try to avoid. Am I being too naiive, too trusting, or might the AM site become a portal of choice that develops a good reputation, a portal which, in a few years time, buyers and sellers recognise as THE place to search for an honest property?
    I am not wanting to state that online agent = shonky and that office based = quality but I do remain to be convinced that extreme cost-cutting models are what all the buyers/sellers want. Seller wants cheap fees, but its the buyers who buy the houses and they want a quality service. Lets have a quality portal to help quality agents provide this.

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  10. wilko

    The reason Russel Q is banging on so much about his exclusion from AM is that his whole business model depends on it. After showing the public in his advert that he uses Zoopla and RM to sell property he needs those 2 to keep his business on track-he cant sell without them. If the majority of professional high st agents get behind AM and pull their properties off Z and RM the public will stop looking on them as much and look at AM ,where the vast majority of property will be. If eeemooov aren't on AM when they become the main portal they sink like a stone as they can't offer their punters advertising on, what will become, the main portal.

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    1. UKLandlord

      Wilko – too add all estate agents currently depend on Rightmove/Zoopla. Those who have decided to sign up to Agents Mutual are the ones exposing themselves to risk. We all know how quickly profit can turn into debt and hence those dropping an established portal providing them with leads to sign up to a new as yet untried and still unbranded portal!

      I also am surprised at your comment re: eeemooov will fail if not on AM. Simply put, this will not be the case. Easyproperty.com will be far more successful then Agents Mutual + this will allow anyone to advertise through it. What a great business model!

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      1. wilko

        "I also am surprised at your comment re: eeemooov will fail if not on AM"
        I said they will fail if they cant advertise on AM when they become the main portal…..That is very different.

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  11. UKLandlord

    The ol' agent brigade firing their chops as per usual.

    I am pleased to see more competition (AM) enter the portal market but by god would I love to see a claim made against them by online estate agents.
    Noted it is a 'members club' but as somebody else has already pointed out – these must still operate within the law. Discrimination is illegal and if this can be proved… I will laugh hysterically!

    Michael, what makes me think this will not occur is the ethics and conduct of the current age of estate agents. They will not work together, the portal is therefore bound to fail.

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  12. Cardiff Agent

    Mr Quirk can't have it both ways, what does it matter, if AM is going to fail? whilst he still has his two main and present choices, of RM an Z. My advice is, don't waste your money on an action that is unlikely to succeed. Traditional Estate Agents do have an office or base, where Vendors can visit in order to talk face to face, for advice or to make a complaint, they don't ask for unreturnable money up front from Vendors, they do have personal expertise and experience. I would suggest, not the same thing at all, as an internet only set up. If those Agents decide to set up a Portal for themselves, (a Mutual Company) why can't they? Because I set up a home for myself, does that mean that anyone can move into it, or I am discriminating?

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  13. MF

    He doesn't reckon agents mutual have much of a chance but he wants to complain about being excluded because of the type of business he runs. So what will he do if agents mutual let him in? Run another TV ad?

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  14. gbh11

    Estate Agency is a peoples business and always will be. The large amount of people that buy through us also come back to sell through us, because we offer a great service at a reasonable price. Yes, along the way there have been unhappy clients that can come and see us and can vent at us, and we can solve the problem. We as a nation, hate call centres! Which effectively is all these online agents are. I speak to people about this regularly, and only a very small number would even consider an online agent. As agents there are clients that want such a low fee that we walk away from the listing. These are the people that the online agents will get. I'm quite sure that after using them once they won't use them again. They will come back to our traditional ways and won't have a problem paying that little bit more. Online agents are not a threat or a problem, they are infact a blessing, they will eventually be the ones that will make the client pay a higher fee for a far superior service.

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    1. UKLandlord

      You are living in a dream world. The general consensus from members of the public are that all agents are crooks. That is why online agent's are starting to boom – nobody wants to talk to you face to face. They don't even want to see you anymore – they are tired of the service that has been provided for so long at prices that cannot be justified (£400 for a standard pre-drafted tenancy agreement is ludicrous). Commission breeds an unhealthy service, some agents are ethical but most would sell theirs soul for a quick buck.

      You end your comment with "online agents… will eventually be the ones that will make the client pay a HIGHER fee for a far superior service". Driven by money – not the client.

      TYPICAL.

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      1. wilko

        "That is why online agent's are starting to boom" –
        What % of the market currently sell through online agents?
        Boom! you really are living in cloud cuckoo land.

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      2. gbh11

        I have no doubt that my business will survive and flourish under the cloud of the online agents. Every human being is driven by money, it is the nature of the beast. However, there are a few that will just charge high prices because they have high costs. Yes we are more expensive than an online agent. BUT not because of our costs, because we are better. Confidence not arrogance. I have mystery shopped several online agents. I wish them well, they are a different model to us. They will not diminish our clientele.

        "£400 for a standard pre drafted tenancy agreement is ludicrous"
        Completely agree. However different areas charge different fees. We don't charge anywhere near that and nor do our competitors. So don't tar everyone. And if you don't want to pay the prices that are fair and reasonable, guess what-theres always a call centre ready and waiting to keep you on hold so good luck to you.

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  15. wardy

    Ohhh let him in, who cares?
    In the words of PeeBee, BRING IT ON.

    AM doesn't exist yet and its not as if the likes of e**e are penetrating the market with a duopoly portal situation as it is.
    What exactly is everyone so scared of?

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    1. Benay

      it's all just spin, he can't do what he claims – end of. He can feed us with this stuff all day, it will just take its natural course and come out as Merde

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  16. smile please

    lifted from an online agent this morning.

    Our business model depends on selling a higher proportion of our inventory. This means that customers recommend us and Rightmove/Zoopla charge us less!

    Hmmm interesting!

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    1. Benay

      stuff all use if they can't win more than 2% of instructions.

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  17. Tuf Luv

    I need to change my supply because whatever Russ is smoking seems premium. Be serious dude, you know we don’t suffer fools let alone twice in a day and you hardly come to the table with clean hands so listen up we get it, but moving to the beat of your own drum can have disparate trajectories so be careful where you end up.

    Maybe you're crazy or maybe you're crazy like a fox but nirvana you ain't. Your relevance is self evident but we're still here fella because high street agency will adapt and the public will continue to make good choices. We're legion so don't expect us to quit the rest of our lives just yet and whilst your service wraps everything up in a sesame seed bun it lacks countenance, so far you’re just chasing pavements.

    It takes a village to raise a child but I can't waste time following you on twitter to see how that works out when I've still got a half bottle of JD making eyes at me. Jeez we can’t even agree to disagree but its cool because I think your model will inevitably shape the future of agency but it’s going to take more than a coke and a smile to make that jump from revolution to evolution and smart agents won’t lay down all foetal while its happening. – [ come on Ros you’re killing me, comment of the week or what ]

    Agency doesn’t have a force field and unlike affiliation, guys like Russ can actually impact how we operate because what they offer is just the right amount of sh*tty to attract attention. Me, I’m not buying his dilettante act so let him get tumescent on someone else's time, his 15 minutes are up.

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    1. wardy

      yeah, comment of the week….voted

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      1. wilko

        It has to come from this post….I liked;
        "Maybe you're crazy or maybe you're crazy like a fox but nirvana you ain't…"

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        1. Paul H

          There's about 10 comments of the week in that perler of a post, my favourite is….."I need to change my supply because whatever Russ is smoking seems premium"

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  18. wardy

    We really need to get a PIE community beano organised for xmas or something, I want to have a pint with this guy.

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    1. wilko

      I'm in….I recall Ros was going to organise a bash….Hilton seems to ring a bell.

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  19. JAM01

    Can we have clarification please from AM. If an agent is offering full service, including accompanied viewings when requested, but works from a serviced office or from home, as a full-service agent will they be able to join AM?

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  20. wilko

    I don't think it is clarified as "full agency service" if there isn't a branch that can display details and is open to the public. My reading of that is that those working from home depend wholly online to attract buyers ie Zoopla and RM-thus an online agent. Serviced offices I 'm not sure.

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    1. JAM01

      Cheers Wilko, but that is just it. Those that work from home, or a serviced office DON'T just rely online to attract buyers etc from the main portals. And this is the distinction I was trying to make when PIE went live.

      I previously worked from a Serviced Office, then opened 2 x High St Branches and then back to Serviced Offices. THE ONLY difference is that there are no property window displays. Still gained Clients from prospecting, referrals, newspaper ads, recommendations, etc, and the portals as well. But full service is full service – working from home or a serviced office does not entail any form of lack of service, and I though that was what was the differentiating factor between 'traditional' and 'online'.

      Working from a serviced office or from home, but offering 'full estate agency services' is the centre ground and as a NAEA member, they should qualify for AM, as they are NOT following the online model of advertising or using other local agents to do their listings an viewings.

      Appreciate the response – many thanks!

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      1. wilko

        I'm sure you have given, and will continue to give great service. I guess that it is in the interest of those that offer high street branches to try and create a separate portal to protect their interests….You have to remember that RM and ZOOPLA have given a platform for people to sell properties online which has created the home estate agent and the move by some to serviced offices…It is a fool that doesn't think that the industry will go online completely…..no, not now or in the near future, but definately in the future at sometime. Just as home / online and serviced agents have prided themselves on how they can use the same portals as the high street agents to sell property for a fraction of the cost of high street agents, the High Street agents have to fight back with their own exclusive portal to further their aims and beliefs. If they succeed in shifting the majority of market stock from z and rm in the next 2 years or so and put it on AM purchasers will have a choice….RM and Zoopla for online agencies (and self listings…..yes we all know Zoopla will probably go down that route in the future) and AM for the bulk (at the moment) of property from the traditional high street agencies.

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        1. JAM01

          Wilko

          So on this basis then, it is the fact that there is a High Street Office that is the qualification for membership of AM, even though a MNAEA agent may be in a serviced office next door offering 'the same' full services but just not showing properties in the window. Members of the public come into serviced offices too.

          JM

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          1. Benay

            You will drive yourself demented if you try to get your head around this malarkey. The best analogy I have come up with for AM– Auric Goldfinger and his chums want all the Gold to themselves; the commission pot of Gold is worth about £3.15 billion each year and they want it all. What I haven't worked out– who is playing Oddjob and whether Ros is Jill Masterton or ***** Galore.

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  21. Robert May

    Traditional Agency bosses need to stop and evaluate firms like Emoov, understand how they make money, understand how they are winning instruction and what impact that has on their own business. With that done it is reasonably easy to do something about it.

    I am waiting for Hound to get back from Dorset, he has an interesting Hybrid model I want to find out more about.

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    1. PeeBee

      Robert

      "Traditional Agency bosses need to…understand how they make money…"

      The question there is DO THEY actually MAKE money?

      Or are they simply somehow existing?

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  22. Robert May

    I was hoping to have this chat with Hound but suspect the cloudy farmhouse scrumpy has got the better of him.

    For the bit they do there is no doubt the passive intermediary Agents as opposed to the traditional agent with no shopfront can make money from simply listing properties on the internet; that bit takes no skill. Can they sell properties and make money? No! Can they employ self employed negs around the country who are responsible for their own sickness and holiday pay as well as their national insurance? Yes. Is it legal to pretend to be self employed and bypass the legalities of employment whilst effectively having a single employer? That is something to take up with with HMRC but there reallyis a nasty waiting for those that employ tax evasion tactics.
    Is there a difference between selling property and letting internet applicants buy property, d a m n right there is.

    There is no doubt taking a listing fee for every property whether it sells or not is an option many will grab hold off when the market is good. But the inexerience of selling on a rising market is when a vendor needs professional advice the most. Everyone boasts how much the saved by not using an Agent but I have never heard anyone shout how much they lost by not having a professional to advise them.

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