An estate agent who complained about a high street firm’s alleged portal juggling of one property has accused various regulators of passing the buck back and forth between themselves.
David Mintz, of Normie & Co in Whitefield, Manchester, says he was sent round the proverbial houses when he complained to the Advertising Standards Authority, The Property Ombudsman, the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team, Rightmove and the NAEA.
Mintz alleged that the ASA seemed uninterested; TPO referred him to Trading Standards; and the NAEA was unwilling to talk to its member agent about the alleged activity until after Trading Standards had investigated.
Mintz claims that Rightmove sent email confirmation within a week confirming that the property had been correctly identified as re-loading and it would investigate. Mintz said Rightmove later said it had investigated the complaint and would ban the agent from using statistics and Rightmove Intel.
However, claims Mintz: “Despite what Rightmove might have said, the agent still has full access to the intel and is using it.”
He said that the upshot of his complaint to Trading Standards was that “apparently, it is talking to Rightmove about the matter”.
Mintz said: “This represents a worrying cycle of toothless institutions passing the buck.”
Mintz, who has previously blogged on his estate agency website about portal juggling, has also accused the membership bodies of sitting on their hands.
He said: “What the RICS and the NAEA do both have in common is their total failure to campaign and lobby parliament effectively to ring-fence and guarantee the livelihood of its members.
“Just look at the banning of letting fees and the introduction of increased landlord taxation. The silence from the flag bearers of our industry has been deafening.
“Don’t get me wrong, there has been a bit of rhetoric, but it’s been mere lip service and is totally unlikely to ruffle any feathers.
“Behind closed doors, these organisations don’t have the power to effectively lobby against changes which will literally wipe thousands off their members’ bottom lines.
“So where does that leave us? One organisation with its trousers round its ankles most of the time, too lax on some issues but not brave enough to properly lobby parliament nor police its own members adequately.
“Another organisation too elitist to be relevant to the vast majority of agents in England.”
Mintz said that when his previous blog on portal juggling was the subject of a story in EYE, there were disparaging comments – even though he had not named the agent he was accusing.
He said: “What I didn’t expect was the massive outpouring of warmth and support from agents I’ve never even heard of before, as far north as Scotland and as far south as Bournemouth, who all got in touch to say that they too have suffered in silence for too long and were too afraid to speak out. No one wants a turf war.”
He called for “proper and real support for thousands of honest and well-meaning agents in the country”.
Yesterday evening, Mintz said: “If Trading Standards settle with Rightmove’s stance, and take no further action, it’s a ridiculous situation which ensures that these offences will never be effectively policed. I have informed Trading Standards that this needs to be looked at without wearing Rightmove’s goggles and hopefully some meaningful action will be taken.
“For any agent forced into taking a stand, this represents a worrying cycle of toothless institutions passing the buck. Being charitable, it is perhaps a case of these institutions lacking the resources to tackle juggling effectively.
“Perhaps, like some of my detractors have said in online and offline comments, the underlying feeling is that juggling is a victimless crime – but if this is the case they would be mistaken on several levels. Members of the public are being defrauded and honest agents will sometimes lose business on the basis of incorrect statistics.
“The fact that no money changes hands in these transactions does not make it any less worthy of the correct and proper attention from our industry ‘champions’. If the NAEA and TPO defer their investigations to NTSEAT in the belief that NTSEAT have the resources, manpower and expertise to forensically investigate these matters as they claim, then they will achieve the feat of disappointing everyone but the guilty party.”