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Agent who says he had to close two branches after ultimatum challenges Rightmove’s ‘fairness’

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Wed 30 Oct 2019

Agent who says he had to close two branches after ultimatum challenges Rightmove’s ‘fairness’

An agent has revealed that he was given 14 days by Rightmove to close down two of his three branches or pay subscriptions for all three.

If he did not, he was told he would have his remaining full branch turned off.

The agent felt he had no option but to close down two offices, which he had been running as satellite operations – he says on the advice of Rightmove itself.

The agent, who has asked not to be named, closed his branches in August.

He works in a small but spread-out and highly seasonal market where holidaymakers swell the usual population which has a high permanent proportion of wealthy retirees.

He had asked for the two seaside branches to become ‘satellite’ branches – open and manned only during the busy parts of the year.

The agent claims that the Rightmove rep himself suggested it back in February.

However, in August another rep said that what the agent had been doing for the previous six months was not compliant, leading to the closures.

The agent given the ultimatum has described it as unfair as he says that two of his competitors are still running ‘satellite’ branches in the same area with Rightmove’s full knowledge.

The agent said that while he acted within 14 days’ notice, one competitor has been running a satellite branch for over five years and the other for ten months.

He says that both have properties in these satellite locations which they are listing from other branches.

He has told his reps in correspondence which EYE has seen: “As far as I am concerned they can continue for ever, so long as everyone is allowed to do the same. I want to know why I have been singled out and treated unfairly and unequally to my competitors.

“Why does Rightmove want to create an unlevel playing field and offer clear commercial advantages to select agencies?”

The agent said that Rightmove’s tough stance appeared to coincide with a decrease in the number of estate agency branches in total, according to its latest results.

A Rightmove spokesperson told EYE: “Agents are charged per branch, or if they advertise a higher than average number of properties (more than 50% of their available stock) outside a 100,000 property radius around their branch location then they are additionally charged for virtual branches.

“Properties can only be displayed on Rightmove if they are from a paying branch that received the original instruction.”

The agent said that Rightmove’s response had not addressed his points.

He said that in any case the region where he operates only has some 70,000 properties in total.

He said his competitors operate satellite offices which display properties and which they man during the summer and in winter by request.

He said: “I tried doing this too. However Rightmove told me recently they do not recognise the term ‘satellite’ office, and if my offices have properties in the windows, any client is ever offered to meet there, or if any of my media (press, social, web, print) or staff ever mention the locations then we shall be charged for them as full branches.”

He said he was being told to obey different rules from his competitors: “Either I can operate branches without paying for them, or they can’t.

“It’s a tough market. Why would Rightmove not want equality?”

The agent said he is considering reporting Rightmove to the Competition and Markets Authority