Channel 4’s exposing documentary ‘From Russia With Cash’ caused discussion amongst many regarding money laundering and chief executive of online agency easyProperty, Rob Ellice has said the money laundering scandal exposed, would not happen with online estate agents.
He gives his reasons saying that traditional agencies have a process of charging a percentage commission of sale, which means that the more expensive the property, the more agents will earn “and some traditional estate agents … use unscrupulous tactics to sell properties no matter what the cost.”
In his opinion it is very often the case that “corrupt” high street estate agents are doing whatever is necessary to maximise commissions, regardless of the effects. These will then reflect badly on everyone, so transparency and fair pricing is needed to renovate the industry.
Ellice goes on to say that online agents who offer transparent fees are “demystifying” the sales and letting process, empowering owners and buyers “so they can now challenge this unacceptable behaviour. Flat and transparent fees promote ethical practice and remove any incentive to prioritise one property over another for large commissions like we saw in Channel 4’s documentary”.
He insists that all agents should have strict anti- fraud policies in place like they do at easyProperty, they ensure every property and tenant is subject to numerous fraud checks and all incoming phone calls are also qualified through various security checks.
Ellice seems aware that it would be impossible to suggest that every person with fraudulent purposes will be caught at that stage, but believes that the strong values and ethical practices upheld by easyProperty ensures that behaviours such as those observed in the documentary will never arise.
Traditional agents can argue that the concerns with financial crime doesn’t focus on fees and that money launderers will always find a way online or not.
Agents who are not online based get to meet their clients face to face, so online agents maybe more vulnerable when it comes to being deceived by scams and money-laundering rings.