Yesterday’s hearing at the Competition Appeal Tribunal examining OnTheMarket’s ‘one other portal’ rule was the last to be held in public until Monday.
The Tribunal is examining potential competition issues around the rule imposed by Agents’ Mutual portal after issues were raised by Connells-owned brand Gascoigne Halman.
Today and tomorrow, the Tribunal is due to be closed to the public for legal arguments. It is set to resume in public on Monday for final submissions.
The panel yesterday continued to hear evidence from two expert witnesses – Simon Bishop for Agents’ Mutual, and David Parker for Gascoigne Halman.
Mr Parker said that OTM’s entry into the market, with its OOP rule, had “reduced competitive pressure on Rightmove”.
He added: “OTM is not an adequate replacement for the lack of competition from Zoopla.”
He said the effect was “detrimental for all agents from a cost-per-lead perspective” as agents were “essentially forced to choose” between Rightmove and Zoopla as their second portal.
Mr Parker said that his analysis suggested it was “more likely than not” that Rightmove’s market position would improve as a result of OTM’s entry with the OOP rule.
Mr Parker went on to say that had OTM entered the market without the OOP rule, it was “quite possible it would have attracted more agents”.
Alan Maclean QC, for Agents’ Mutual, said that agents leaving Rightmove or Zoopla for OTM was “not competitive harm”.
It was, he said, “just harm”.
Mr Parker said that “several thousand agents [who] sign up with OTM have left Zoopla in very large part and that weakens Zoopla’s attractiveness to house hunters with the consequence of strengthening Rightmove’s position”.
Mr Maclean said: “But what you cannot show is that the loss of agents is caused by the OOP rule as opposed to simply my client’s competitive entry into the market.”
Mr Parker told Paul Harris QC, re-examining for Gascoigne Halman, that he felt OTM would “struggle” in the market because “it is quite well-known, but it doesn’t have an attractive proposition in terms of cost-per-lead”.
He said the OOP rule was a “deterrent to agents joining OTM [because], by signing up, they have given up one of their existing portals or they have given up the option of listing on a second portal.
“In those circumstance, OTM will struggle.”
He concluded: “I find that, whilst I expect some further growth in OTM’s [market] share, I don’t expect it to be very large.”
Noting OTM’s market share was currently about 4%, Mr Parker said “they might get 6% or 7% by January 2020”.