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Eversheds Sutherland (International) secures win for Agents’ Mutual in high profile competition law case

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    The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has published its judgment (5, July 2017) on the dispute between online property portal provider Agents’ Mutual and the estate agent Gascoigne Halman. It unanimously concluded that the competition issues in the case should be determined in favour of Agents’ Mutual.

    Agents’ Mutual is an organisation owned by its estate agent members which established OnTheMarket, a new entrant into the UK’s online property portal market, to compete with established providers such as Zoopla and Rightmove. Gascoigne Halman is a chain of estate agents that became a member of Agents’ Mutual and listed its properties on OnTheMarket.

    The agreements between Agents’ Mutual and its member agents contain a key term which Agents’ Mutual considered was necessary to enable it to break into the online property portal market, namely that agents would only list their properties on OnTheMarket and one other competing portal.

    Having listed with OnTheMarket for some time, Gascoigne Halman breached its agreement with Agents’ Mutual by listing its properties on OnTheMarket, Zoopla and Rightmove, alleging that the one other portal rule (and other terms in the agreement) were anti-competitive. The competition law issues in the case were transferred from the High Court to the CAT – it is those issues that were the subject of the judgment in Agents’ Mutual’s favour on 5 July.

    Lesley Farrell, competition litigation Partner, Eversheds Sutherland, commented:

    “Gascoigne Halman had claimed that a number of the terms within OnTheMarket’s agreements with agents listing on the portal were anticompetitive. We are very pleased that the Competition Appeal Tribunal has determined, unanimously, that there is no basis for the those claims and that the agreements are in fact ‘pro-competitive’.“

    Agents’ Mutual’s CEO, Ian Springett, commented:

    “The aim of our portal has been to increase competition and choice for estate agents and property seekers. I am delighted that the Competition Appeal Tribunal has recognised that OnTheMarket’s entry into the online property portal market is pro-competitive and that, in accordance with the advice we had been given, the terms it has with its agents are compatible with competition law. I would like to thank the team at Eversheds Sutherland for their high quality and tireless support on this matter.”

    The Eversheds Sutherland team was led by Partner Lesley Farrell, assisted by Legal Director Chris Buddle, Principal Associate Elizabeth Coleman, Senior Associate Emily Hudson, and Associates Kate Henry, and Jen Sutcliffe. Mr Alan Maclean QC and Mr Josh Holmes QC were instructed as Counsel by Eversheds Sutherland to represent Agents’ Mutual. Gascoigne Halman was represented by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

    This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full terms and conditions on our website.

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