Regulator asks to be handed list of ‘portal juggling’ allegations

Agent Chris Wood has taken his campaign about alleged ‘portal juggling’ to the industry regulator.

Wood, of Cornish agents PDQ Estates, has now been in both telephone and email communication with the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team.

This followed the initial receipt by Wood of an automated email (see above story).

An investigator from NTSEAT has now asked Wood for a summary of the allegations.

Wood has told the investigator that there is a “substantial and significant body of evidence” indicating that some agents are “deliberately falsifying listings on the two main property portals”.

Wood also claimed: “The lack of enforcement . . . is allowing consumers to be misled, law-abiding businesses to be disadvantaged to lose business and [is] making a mockery of the laws of this land into the process.”

Rightmove has announced that it is conducting an inquiry into so-called ‘portal juggling’.

A group of agents has united via Twitter to exchange their concerns.

Wood told EYE at the weekend that he is expressly concerned that agents who falsify their listings are distorting their market share at the expense of those agents who play by the rules.

Meanwhile, Wood has withdrawn his threat to stop paying Rightmove his monthly subscriptions after being warned that withholding payment would breach the terms and conditions of membership.

Wood had earlier alleged that Rightmove itself was breaching its own terms and conditions in relation to data quality.

Wood has told Rightmove that failure to pay this month’s subscription could have meant his own customers perceiving a loss of service, and hence “I would be in breach of contract with them”.

Wood has also told the portal: “I am sure that Rightmove would wish to distance itself from any of its customers breaking the law so flagrantly and would also wish to be seen to be taking a firm stand.”

In answer, Rightmove’s commercial director of agency Jason Bushby told Wood in an email: “We do take direct action with agents but we do not disclose this as discussed and we apply filters to catch various listing issues that result in us stopping them appearing on Rightmove as in the example of the 88,000 sold properties I mentioned.

“This only removes them from Rightmove so they continue to be advertised in all the other places they are uploaded to, be it other portals and the agent’s own sites as examples.

“We do not control this, so as an industry issue that is like papering over the cracks and avoiding the wider problem.

“We need to do our part though and review our data quality processes to keep on top of it.”

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18 Comments

  1. Frown Please

    With all the respect I can muster for Chris this still seems like a win for right move.

     

    I just hope your not one of the customers paying twice as much for the service than others like agents in my town.

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    1. PeeBee

      “…this still seems like a win for right move.”

      I’m not getting where you see that to be the case, ‘Frown Please’.

      Rightmove have been hammered with evidence of potential #portaljuggling now for nearly six months.  They have laid on the waffle thick and heavy about how seriously they take their ‘data quality’ but done chuff all about the situation.  Their handling of the issue will be seen by many as abysmal – and I would not be surprised in the least if it gets the handle at some point or other of #Rightmovegate by some cheeky individual…

      The public are, as a result of Tw@tter and EYE’s coverage (for which we are massively grateful), becoming aware of the situation.  And it is THEM that #portaljuggling affects most – whether they be looking to buy or rent; looking for an Agent to handle the sale or rental of their valuable asset, or even looking to invest in what appears to be a ‘successful’ company.

      Until this became a newsworthy item, Rightmove had nothing to lose by allowing #portaljuggling to take place willy-nilly.  There would always be a statistic that they could use to satisfy that day/week’s agenda created by the falsely inflated numbers of re-listed properties.

      Now – word is spreading and it is expected that the public will demand what they should be receiving – GENUINE property listings information – from the portals.

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      1. PeeBee

        Interesting…

        …someone seems to ‘Dislike’ the need for portals to be made to provide good, honest data to the public.

        Wonder who?

        Wonder why?

        Wonders never cease…

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      2. Frown Please

        I agree with you on all points but it’s not the public demanding this. It is us agents.

         

        As Right move have told us all thousands of times they already have the procedure in place to catch the portaljugglers.

         

        It seems Chris is the only person to get Right move to even slightly change their script. But even he has gone back to paying them to provide a shocking service. I honestly thought he had managed to wangle a few months free but this is the money grabbing Right move.  And to only achieve a face to face meeting with Head of Sales seems ridiculous for this problem.

         

        Right move still aren’t taking it seriously. Hopefully he has better luck with NTSEA.

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        1. PeeBee

          ‘Frown Please’…

          Without taking anything in the slightest away from Chris and his sterling efforts to both highlight the issue and to bring it to an end, you are unaware or simply dismissive of the massive amount of input that a number of other individuals and organisations have had with both the portals and regulatory bodies to finally get this thing where it is today.

          Like every iceberg, you are seeing the tip protruding from the icy waters.  To use an analogy that should ring very true to you, your vendors only see the offer submitted – not the amount of work that goes into getting the viewing in the first place.

          There are over a dozen people who have been beavering away at this for up to six months.

          Chris has – extremely courageously I may add – championed it and stuck his head above the parapet, with a great deal of much-valued help from Ros and EYE to publicise what is a major issue within our industry, which is assisting greatly with getting public awareness and support.

          The cause is gaining momentum – and you are just as welcome to join the ‘shouty lot’ as any other if you have information which adds weight to that which is already held and being added to on a daily basis.

          So – are you in?

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  2. Deequealy

    I have provided Rightmove with numerous examples of corporate agents advertising properties for which they do not have instructions to market. These examples have been substantiated with Land Registry records. Rightmove assure me that such agents’ complete listings will be withdrawn if such practices continue. They do and I have never seen any evidence of Rightmove removing a corporate agents’ listings. A cynic might easily draw the conclusion that Rightmove can’t afford to ruffle the feathers of a corporate but will happily pay lip service to a small independent. Having said all that NTSEAT could resolve the whole issue quite quickly by successfully prosecuting an agent. A single, successful prosecution is likely to resolve the problem across the country quite quickly. NTSEAT might say it does not have the resources but I wonder how much resource is being directed to fielding complaints such as this whereas a successful prosecution might make the issue go away completely.

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    1. Chri Wood

      Keep submitting issues, keep complaining, don’t give up! The portals are permitting this to happen and decent agents are losing business as a result of this illegal activity. We are now being heard.

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  3. Eric Walker

    This is an issue which distorts market share and, if proven, misleads customers and potentially investors. I hope too that the claimed savings on fees is also addressed. One call centre agent purports to save on average over £5000 – seriously? That suggests the average commission in the UK is over £5,500 – with or without VAT isn’t mentioned, nevertheless, it simply isn’t true.

    I believe that Rightmove has systems in place and has to rely upon the honesty of their customers, but will have to look closely at this now the regulator is involved.

    Nevertheless if this allegation is proven, and having seen the evidence it will be hard to deny, there could be far reaching consequences which may get attention from regulators other than Trading Standards. Those against whom the allegation are made cannot simply blame an IT issue – again. One would have thought the claimed ‘game changing, disrupting technology’ would work better than the standard High Street systems.

    Well done to Chris for bringing this issue up and getting TSI to take it seriously.

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  4. Property Paddy

     

    Actually Deequealy makes a good point “whereas a successful prosecution might make the issue go away completely”

     

    If an agent decided to break to rules and advertised in a local paper properties sold as new instructions for example. It would be quite easy for other agents to simply post this to trading standards or whoever to pursue the law breaker.

     

    But not the newspaper ! No one would go chasing the newspaper for this.

     

    But we expect RM & Z to monitor and action this, why ?

     

    Actually to be fair we should expect RM & Z to as they specialise in our business and we pay them, good money to represent out market with honesty and integrity.

     

    Therefore we have to ask all the regulatory bodies who are actively employed in the business of estate agency to work hand in hand with RM, Z & any other portal to enforce prosecutions of the miscreants.

     

    In view of this there needs to be a law regarding property portals. They cannot advertise property for sale unless duly registered to do so, the governing bodies are obliged to monitor and act in the event of misleading adverts.

     

    This would mean new portals cant just jump up whenever they think they have a new angle without being registered, monitored and possibly prosecuted.

     

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    1. Chri Wood

      Both portals’ Ts&Cs state they will deal with advertisers who do not act honestly or attempt to deceive them or the public. As advertisers, the portals also have a separate, legal duty to not show adverts they believe to be unlawful or misleading. Sticking their fingers in their ears and saying it isn’t their fault is not acceptable, ethical or lawful.

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      1. Property Paddy

        Hi Chris,

        I agree with you but clearly there needs to be some regulatory body (like oftel or ofgas) to focus on this specifically (ofprop ?) With thousands of advertisers posting thousands of property and probably 100’s of deceitful adverts out there on a daily basis would it not make sense?

        If our own bodies NAEA ect can’t do anything then why not have a portal regulator ?

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        1. Chri Wood

          I agree the system and bodies we have do not seem to work/ be interested in protecting agents and consumers as they should. A new regulatory body may not be the answer but, I have been running a few ideas about how to make the current system work better for a while now

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  5. Typhoon

    Virtually every week we provide RM with “evidence’ of this happening. They never do anything about it. There always seems to a be a”legitimate’ technical reason why agent X has had to re load their stock.

    Utter tosh every time.

     

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  6. docklander52

    My firm, have over the last few years, brought this “ghosting” to RM’s attention. They seem to get a grip and then…..over a few weeks the problem re-surfaces.

    As Eric completely accurately states; this “ghosting” distorts not only the agents market-share but also RM’s share. Perhaps that is why they are slow or reluctant to act?

    Perhaps we should start a separate forum, the sole purpose of which is to name and shame agents that are ghosting properties?

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  7. J1

    I wonder

    If Rightmove stopped providing agents’ league tables in the admin area, would anybody actually be bothered about this?

    The business of producing these tables to determine apendage size in the local area is misguided anyway, as it just leads to this sort of abuse

    Are house sellers really bothered about who has the biggest apendage? Or is it just the agents?

    You would never have complained in the old days if an agent put two slightly different adverts of the same house in the paper in the same week!

    Get rid of the league tables, get rid of the issue

    Just a thought

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    1. davehedgehog

      J1, Spot on, I complained about these Rightmove Intel tables to the Rep and said they cause nothing but agro and dishonesty. He said that I was the 1st person who had ever moaned about them, I told him that’s probably because I’m the only agent in my area that doesn’t abuse it.

       

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    2. Frown Please

      Nice suggestion J1

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    3. Chri Wood

      I think the league tables (when they can be trusted and policed correctly) are a good thing that add value to consumers and, good agents in equal measure.

      Stats have always been used by agents to make various claims, usually without reliable, independent data. We cannot uninvent listing and price change data being freely available however, we can make it useful and trustworthy.

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