The Court of Appeal has today dismissed Connell-owned estate agency Gascoigne Halman’s challenge to the original Competition Appeal Tribunal adjudication in July last year.
That found that Agents’ Mutual, which since the court case has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of OnTheMarket plc, was entirely legal in its pursuit of a then strictly enforced ‘one other portal rule’ which has since been dropped, and also its exclusion of online-only and hybrid agents and its listings’ ‘exclusivity’.
Following a hearing in November, the Court of Appeal has today issued a judgement in favour of Agents’ Mutual with regard to all the competition issues in its proceedings against Gascoigne Halman.
Breach of contract
“As the major part of its defence against our claim of breach of contract, Gascoigne Halman, led by its parent Connells Group and with funding from Zoopla, had alleged that Agents’ Mutual’s contract with them was void for illegality on competition law grounds,” a statement from OTM says.
“Following a 10-day hearing, the Competition Appeal Tribunal issued a unanimous judgment in July 2017 which rejected those arguments and supported the view consistently held by the Board of Agents’ Mutual and OnTheMarket that the Company’s strategy for entry to the portals market has been pro-competitive and that the Company has operated within the law.
“The Court of Appeal has today unanimously and comprehensively dismissed the appeal by Gascoigne Halman of the Tribunal’s findings.”
The legal wrangling isn’t quite over, though. There are several residual non-competition issues relating to OTM’s claim that ‘remain to be resolved’ and that are due to go through the court process later this year.
David Livesey, Connells Group CEO, says: “Firstly, it is important to recognise that this litigation is being brought against Gascoigne Halman/Connells Group by OnTheMarket. We are merely defending our business from the action, which is costing both sides time and money which could be put to much better use.
“I am surprised and disappointed that the Appeal Court has upheld the view of the Competition Appeals Tribunal that the “One Other Portal” rule is not anti-competitive when, in my view, it is.
“Having dealt with the competition issues in the Gold Member contract, we now move to the next stage of robustly defending ourselves against this pointless litigation from OTM and, as such, there will be no further comment.”