OnTheMarket could cost members ‘millions’ in legal battles, says Zoopla

first_imgHome » News » OnTheMarket could cost members ‘millions’ in legal battles, says Zoopla previous nextProducts & ServicesOnTheMarket could cost members ‘millions’ in legal battles, says ZooplaTop UK law firm advises that OTM and every member could be fined if the Agents Mutual arrangements are found to infringe competition law.PROPERTYdrum24th February 20150599 Views Zoopla Property Group this morning ramped up its attack on OnTheMarket with a further statement that warns OTM members that they could be infringing competition law, leaving themselves open to litigation, fines and compensation costs.Zoopla Property Group’s statement said, “According to advice from top UK law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, if the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ever concluded that Agents’ Mutual Limited’s (AM) arrangements infringe competition law, not only would AM as a corporate entity be subject to fines and possible damages, but each individual member agent would also likely be liable based on their participation in AM.“The advice, provided to Zoopla Property Group plc (ZPG), states that, if the CMA at any time found an infringement of competition law, it could impose fines on each agency of up to 10% of their total annual turnover. In the case of an independent single branch firm the fines could run into the tens of thousands of pounds or for a larger firm such as Savills plc into the tens of millions of pounds.“The advice adds that any of AM’s competitors, including competing portals and excluded online agents and property developers that have suffered losses as a result of any anti-competitive actions, could use the CMA’s decision to seek damages in ‘follow-on’ litigation, including compensation for lost profits, the diminution in the value of capital assets or lost commercial opportunities. And, critically, each agency firm would be individually liable for the full amount of any damages awarded, rather than just for a share, which could run into the million of pounds.“Whilst the CMA may choose to take a ‘wait and see’ approach to AM and not act immediately, the implication of the advice is that, if at any time during the life of AM the CMA does rule that its conduct has been anti-competitive, then the risks for those firms involved could be potentially devastating.“Drawing on case law from 2012, the advice reveals that The Competition Appeal Tribunal awarded exemplary damages where it found that the defendants had acted with a specific intent to eliminate a competitor from the market. The specific statements and actions of AM with regard to ZPG create a heightened risk for its members in this regard.”Lawrence Hall (left) of ZPG commented, “Following receipt of this advice and the significant potential risks, we felt it important to share this information with our members and other industry participants in the interests of transparency. We do wonder if Agents’ Mutual has made its members fully aware of the potential exposure that they have opened each of them up to.”And in the last few days, the war of words has continued between Zoopla and OnTheMarket.Zoopla has accused OnTheMarket (OTM) boss Ian Springett of providing the property industry with information that is “either blatantly false or designed to mislead” while it also claims that OTM “are doing their members a disservice” by not allowing them to “advertise freely” with other portals, as the UK property portal war starts to turn nasty.OTM last week issued a press statement announcing that less than two weeks after their marketing campaign started, they had already attracted in excess of one million unique visitors to the OTM website.Zoopla responded to OTM’s claim of one million unique visits to its new portal by suggesting that the newly launched portal was practically plucking figures out of the air, with no authoritative source to back up their data.“We feel compelled to respond to some of the recent claims made by Ian Springett, which are simply not based on fact,” said Lawrence Hall (left), Head of Communications at Zoopla Property Group (ZPG). “As we have said before, we are a data-driven business and will let the numbers do the talking rather than making unsubstantiated claims and promises.”Hall said that OTM’s strategy of “going after ZPG” was a “curious” one, given that ZPG now attracts one of the largest audiences of property consumers in the UK, “with over 20 per cent of all online property eyeballs.”“This strategy appears to be borne out of frustration at the lack of impact that OTM is having with consumers and lack of results it is getting for its members,” he continued.ZPG’s Head of Communications, who insisted that its members are enjoying “record levels of exposure, enquiries, instructions and value”, went on to accuse OTM of doing their members “a disservice by not allowing them to advertise freely with others”.“Some have left to trial OTM and we expect that many will return in due course as they recognise the value they have given up and that the OTM strategy is flawed. This is happening already,” Hall added.He continued, “Dealing specifically with some of the recent claims, we feel it is important for agents to make decisions based on facts and not information that is either blatantly false or designed to mislead, “OTM claims its millionth unique visitor – there is no source for this data to substantiate this claim and whilst OTM claims Hitwise data to be incorrect, it is the most widely recognised and used metric for internet businesses. Hitwise may not be 100 per cent accurate but it is not far off. OTM may have recorded its one millionth visit but that is wildly different to its claim of unique visitors which is either misunderstood or deliberately intended to mislead. OTM’s unique visitors are likely around 20 per cent of that figure. The Hitwise data would suggest that they meant visits and not unique visitors and on this basis, OTM has achieved the same audience in the last three weeks that ZPG gets in less than a day.”Responding to Zoopla’s accusations, Ian Springett (right), Chief Executive of OnTheMarket.com, said, “We stand by every figure we have previously stated and there is no question that on Saturday we welcomed our one millionth unique user to OnTheMarket.com.“What’s more, our momentum is continuing to grow as our membership base expands along with consumer traffic.“We reiterate that we are confident in becoming the number two portal within a year.”OnTheMarket portals competition_law Zoopla February 24, 2015The NegotiatorWhat’s your opinion? Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.Please note: This is a site for professional discussion. Comments will carry your full name and company.This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.Related articles 40% of tenants planning a move now that Covid has eased says Nationwide3rd May 2021 Letting agent fined £11,500 over unlicensed rent-to-rent HMO3rd May 2021 BREAKING: Evictions paperwork must now include ‘breathing space’ scheme details30th April 2021last_img