The owner of property site Onthemarket.com has won a competition tribunal case allowing it to force estate agents to use only one other rival.
The ruling said a “one other portal rule” enforced by Onthemarket for estate agents listing properties on its site was legal. The rule stopped estate agents using the site from using two competitors in the online property portal market, such as Rightmove and Zoopla, at the same time.
Onthemarket, launched in January 2015 by estate agents including Savills and Knight Frank, brought the case after estate agent Gascoigne Halman, which operates 18 offices in the South Manchester region, tried to break its contract, arguing the rule was anti-competitive.
However, the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London said: “The rule did not form part of a wider concerted practice to ‘boycott’ Zoopla and was not invalid on that account.”
The ruling prompted a strong response from ZPG, owner of the Zoopla website. A spokesperson for ZPG said: “We welcome competition based on innovation and performance but firmly believe that Onthemarket’s ‘one other portal’ rule is not in the interests of either agents or consumers.”
“Onthemarket has failed to gain traction precisely because they don’t allow agents a free choice in their own marketing decisions and limit consumer choice and exposure.”
Ian Springett, chief executive of Onthemarket, accused Zoopla and Rightmove of running a “duopoly”, generating “super profits for their shareholders at the expense of their agent customers”.
He added Onthemarket will greet the decision with further moves to expand.
“In the immediate term, we will be ramping up our marketing activity to restore the strong growth in consumer traffic and leads Onthemarket was delivering over its first two years of operations.
He also said the tribunal ruling would allow the company to pursue “substantial new plans” which had been pending, which may now be introduced in August.