CIELA push on with their fight against Purplebricks in Bristol:

CIELA is looking forward to meeting agents in Bristol, this coming Wednesday, and London the following Wednesday 12 July, who would like to debate the need for an organisation to represent the collective interests of law-abiding independent agents. It is free for independent agents to attend, but attendees must register in advance via the CIELA website.

For the avoidance of doubt, the 6 month pre-launch consultation period, designed to sound out the opinion of the industry, which began on 1 April and runs to the 30 Sept, will continue to run whatever the final outcome.

CIELA has been receiving weekly updates from the ASA on the progress of its complaints against the adverts of Purplebricks, and while prohibited from disclosing the contents of the letters, we look forward to the outcome and final decision of the ASA that is expected soon, although no time frame has been provided.

CIELA has not received a response to its letter to Purplebricks’ lawyers dated 17th May (copy attached), sent in response to their complaint about alleged defamatory remarks in the 4th May 2017 Telegraph article. We therefore believe that this was nothing but sabre-rattling and a hollow threat. Our invitation for them to substantiate their claim stands.

CIELA would like to draw the attention of journalists who have felt unable to publish opinions on PB to the fact that defamation action is not applicable to the expression of opinion, only to the publishing of lies. Several trade journalists have chosen not to publish remarks that the Daily Telegraph was happy to publish. PB’s legal response was against CIELA, not the Daily Telegraph.

CIELA is concerned at how effective the intimidation tactics of PB lawyers may be with the trade press.

CIELA has been holding in depth discussions with founder members who, in turn, have been discussing the matter with their industry colleagues.

The feedback has been fascinating, and has shed light on the fact that the number of independent agents who do not comply with minimum legal requirements, which is a requirement of CIELA membership even during pre-launch, is possibly much larger than anyone to date has realised.

CIELA is not anti-corporate, not anti-online, and respects the rights of any business to exist and promote itself within the confines of the law.

CIELA’s stand is against improper practice by any and all sectors, including, and perhaps especially, independent agents who flout the requirements.

From now on, any member found to be not fully compliant with the government’s minimum legal requirements will be immediately and permanently expelled.

Next week we will publish detailed statements from a number of Founder agents regarding the feedback they have received from discussions within the industry. In summary, there is astonishment at the levels of negativity towards any attempt to form a collective voice, even though there is unanimity in the belief that such an organisation is needed.

Interestingly, the majority of negative views publicly expressed appear to come from the anonymous trolls who plague the comments sections of trade news websites. Initial research indicates that some of these agents are the typical law-flouters who do not comply with minimum legal requirements and may as a result be operating in violation of the regulations. These are precisely the independent agents whose conduct generates the bad press the industry receives, and they are a risk to the public. They would appear, on initial inspection, to represent a larger section of the industry than all the corporates combined, and as a result, be the primary culprits behind the poor industry reputation.

Membership of CIELA, even at pre-launch stage, requires a legal declaration by an officer of the member company that all minimum legal requirements are being met, and as such represents an easy way for the public to avoid the criminal section of the industry operating illegally, putting their clients at risk and damaging the industry’s reputation. CIELA welcomes professionally-run, independent estate and lettings agencies who are happy to make a declaration that their business complies with all applicable regulations. Once fully launched, CIELA plans to poll members on whether this requirement should be actively policed, where members compliance with the law will be individually verified.

Many of our earliest members and supporters are existing or former members of the NAEA or ARLA, whose minimum company membership requirements go far beyond the minimum legal requirements set out in UK law. Whilst CIELA supports all their requirements, it means that there is no way for the public to differentiate between the law-abiding and criminal agents who are not members of the NAEA. CIELA suggests that, especially in more challenging market conditions, agents whose businesses do not meet minimum requirements and therefore flout the law should be easily identifiable and thus avoided by the public, benefiting law-abiding agents.

CIELA Founder Charlie Wright commented: “The last three months have been absolutely fascinating and have revealed that it is mostly the law-breakers who are afraid of CIELA’s formation. Professionally run, law-abiding agents who have expressed their support, but not yet joined, have explained that they need to be sure the rogue element of the industry cannot be members, before they commit to membership. So their stated reason for “wait and see” is to be satisfied that the controls are in place to prevent any criminal agents being part of the organisation. Before their feedback, we had not fully appreciated the scale of this problem, i.e. just how many independent agents are breaking the law. These agents who act as though they are above the law are doing the worst damage to the industry. Before there is a chance of improving its reputation, these agents must be publicly identified, to protect the public from their deliberate criminality, or at best their sheer incompetence.”

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