Connells has launched yet another internal investigation into ‘pressurised selling’ after Southampton-based mortgage broker Chris Schutrups called out the estate agency on X (formerly Twitter) for taking part in conditional selling – when buyers are told their offers will only be forwarded to a vendor if they use one of the estate agency’s services.
Shutrups, Founder of The Mortgage Hut, took to X publishing an email received from the Branch Manager of Connells’ Walsall Road office in Birmingham exposing the shenanigans and writing: “Terrible behaviour from @ConnellsEA. Are you proud of your behaviour?”
The email (pictured) from the branch manager read: “I was away from the office yesterday afternoon.
“The offer was originally submitted to the solicitors along with all other offer and your offer was chosen based on the fact that you were using our in house mortgage services and we would be able to chase the sale progressively to a swift conclusion, the solicitors are in favour of this.
“As the circumstances are now changing we will have to re submit the offer along with all others again and refer back to you as soon as we have a decision.” (sic)
Connells’ actions left other brokers fuming.
Lewis Shaw, owner and mortgage expert at Shaw Financial Services, says: “To my mind, this is conditional selling.
“No matter how often we raise this issue, nothing is done about it.
“We need to see proper penalties for those involved, and the Financial Conduct Authority must take action to stamp this out.
“One thing is for sure, this falls foul of the estate agency code of conduct and highlights the need for financial services to be broken apart from estate agencies as clearly they are unable to self-regulate.”
Rhys Schofield, brand director at Peak Mortgages and Protection, adds: “Absolutely this constitutes conditional selling in that the estate agent has agreed the sale on the condition of using their own mortgage broker – something expressly forbidden by the property ombudsmen.
“The estate agent will say this was an ‘isolated incident’, and trot out the usual corporate lies but how many ‘isolated incidents’ does it take to admit that you run a business that just doesn’t care about the rules.”
And Steven Morris, advising director at Advantage Financial Solutions, was even more specific.
“Of course, it’s conditional selling,” he says. “The agent has clearly stated that the client’s offer was ‘based on’ (aka condition of) using the agents’ in-house broker and now the offer would need to be ‘reconsidered’ on the basis the client now isn’t.
“There isn’t scope for subjectivity here, the Trading Standards guidance is crystal clear in section 9d: ‘By law you cannot make it a condition of passing on offers to the seller that the buyer must use services offered by you or another party. You must not discriminate, or threaten to discriminate, against a buyer because that person declines to accept that you will (directly or indirectly) provide related services to them.’
“If you ever wondered how estate agency linked mortgage brokers (generally brands whose name starts with a ‘C’) stay in business, despite their terribly limited panel of lenders (and therefore sub-standard service offering), the explanation is easy; because of conditional selling. It is literally their business model.”
A Connells spokeswoman told The Neg: “At Connells any complaint received is investigated with upmost priority. In this instance, the matter reached a resolution for the client within five hours.
“An investigation into this email is underway, and if there is an instance of pressurised selling, Connells will take full and appropriate action. Pressurised selling is neither encouraged nor acceptable.”
“We are proud to be able to provide a range of services, assisting customers with all aspects of their move and providing a high standard of service.”
Pressed further on whether the Connells Group and its Mortgage Services Division is taking its compliance with both Trading Standards and the Financial Conduct Authority’s new Consumer Duty rules seriously, they added: “We comply with trading standards, and take our duty seriously. In this instance, the complaint was dealt with swiftly.
“This email is being investigated and any instance of pressurised selling found will be dealt with accordingly.”
The Neg reported in February last year how Connells had begun an internal investigation after several independent mortgage brokers accused branch staff of taking part in ‘conditional selling’ when buyers are told their offers will only be forwarded to a vendor if they use one of the estate agency’s services.