Aspiring new trade body CIELA (the Charter for Independent Estate and Letting Agents) – which failed to launch on October 1 as per its original timeline – says there is still a possibility it may get off the ground.
The six month consultation pre-launch period ended as of Saturday, September 30, and CIELA – brainchild of software supplier to the industry Charlie Wright – was due to go live the following day.
But CIELA has now admitted that insufficient membership has been achieved for a full launch. During the six-month pre-launch period, CIELA had been asking interested agents to pay £35 a month, but it is not clear who, or how many, did so. Recruitment roadshows were apparently held in early summer but those planned for last month do not seem to have taken place. The website had not been updated for weeks.
In a defiant statement yesterday evening, however, CIELA suggested all was not lost.
It said: “Discussions are now taking place with well-established third parties who have expressed an interest in possible alliances or partnerships which may allow CIELA to fully form, although these discussions are at an early stage.
“If no such new alliance is formed, CIELA will be put on ice indefinitely, but with the membership, voting and referral systems held intact for any potential future revival.
“Many members have commented on how trading conditions are the toughest they have known for 25 years, which may perhaps have contributed to the difficulty in recruiting new members, even among agents who expressed strong support.
“CIELA remains concerned for the future of many independent agents who are losing out to the unfair practices of some corporate agents’ marketing, the illegal conduct of rogue independent agents and the downward pressure on fees caused by online/call-centre agents.”
Yesterday evening, CIELA updated its website for the first time in weeks with news of its non-launch at the weekend, and also emailed its members.
It told them that because of a tough market, “most agents are working very hard on adapting to the conditions, and don’t have the time or money for any distractions whatsoever”.
It also told members: “We have had some very interesting approaches from well established, well known and reputable organisations who have expressed a desire to join forces.
“Before a final decision is made on CIELA’s fate, discussions will be had to hear out all the offers on the table, and see if any fit with CIELA’s stated aims.”
There is no clue as to who any partners might be, with portals, industry bodies, regulators, and others ruled out – leaving agents scratching their heads as to who any new partner, or partners, might be.
If there is to be a new partner, they would presumably have to align themselves in full with CIELA’s business plan: this includes a ban online and corporate agents from membership CIELA has also laid out its stall as reversing the ban on letting agent fees and has said it would do a PR campaign on behalf of high street independents.
However, CIELA early on fell out with its PR advisers.
CIELA has put in a challenge to the Advertising Standards Authority about Purplebricks’ advertising. Yesterday evening’s statement claimed that a decision by the ASA is expected within weeks.