The figurehead of the Say No To Rightmove campaign has faced down the criticisms levelled against him and the organisation including how he must be in the pay of OTM or Zoopla, is about to launch his own portal and is receiving kickbacks.
During a 40-minute grilling by Christopher Watkins via Zoom Rob Sargent, the CEO of 36-branch South of England agency the Acorn Group also reveals why he’s spending so much time and money attempting to weaken Rightmove and force it to rethink its business.
Last week it was announced that the Say No To Rightmove campaign had joined forces with three other ‘Rightmove rebels’ groups. Sargent has confirmed that it now contains 1,400 agencies and approximately 2,800 branches.
The Say No to Rightmove Campaign is undertaking a survey of agents and found that 75% said £500 a month was a fair price for the portal’s services, with the rest being prepared to pay between £500 and £1,000 a month.
Sargent denies flatly during the interview that he has had any sweeteners or preferential deals from Zoopla or Rightmove other than his firm’s existing listings contracts with them or that he plans to launch his own portal.
“I’ve rejected any further deals dialogue with Zoopla, and with OTM the Acorn Group has the original deal that I’ve made public in the past,” he says
“We have the 75% Rightmove deal and a basic package because I’m out of contract with them. There are no special consideration or cash backs involved with either.”
Sargent also says he is not out to promote OnTheMarket so that his Gold Membership share-holding becomes more valuable and that Acorn is looking to stay with the portal in the long term, and that it will be holding the shares for the long term.
Why do it?
Asked why he is spearheading the campaign, Sargent says he spent £500,000 with Rightmove in 2019 and that this huge cost has been a growing bone of contention with it for several years.
“I’ve got the board’s backing and have the resources to mount this campaign, and I’ve had lots of support from agents up and down the country which is very motivating,” he says.
“Rightmove are good but they are not good value. And the amount paid out to the portals relevant to the returns doesn’t feel quite right or fair now.
“It’s difficult to wave a magic wand and just get from where we are today to the utopia of a more balanced portal environment, more innovation and greater competition.”
Reduce Rightmove costs
Sargent says his group’s goal is to bring about a levelling out of the high prices charged by Rightmove but not kill it and instead persuade the portal’s leaders to adapt to the new reality brought about by Coronavirus and listen more.
“We want a freer market that isn’t so monopolised by Rightmove,” he says. “It’s a big job to shift the network effect that’s been going on for a decade.
“But there is no reason why portals have to charge us so much. We’re not going to do this overnight. Once agents realise that they can move together and can resist and say no, then the landscape will change. Rightmove have been dividing and conquering on a daily and weekly basis and it’s been going on too long.”
Watch the interview in full