New Collaboration Boosts Consumer Protection - 'Move is good news' says Which?

Two main bodies involved in the residential property sector today announced plans for closer collaborative working. The Property Codes Compliance Board (PCCB) and the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA) - who between them share responsibility for setting standards through their respective Codes of Practice that apply to the majority of HIP and search providers and estate agents – have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
This provides for closer working relationships between them to ensure clear, common standards which are promoted amongst property providers. The two bodies have identified initial areas where they plan to work together over the next three months to:

· align the respective Codes of Practice so that the roles and responsibilities of HIP and search providers and agents are clear
· provide a single point of contact for consumers and independent redress for their complaints against providers and agents should things go wrong during the transaction.

Commenting on the proposals, PCCB Chairman, Richard Footitt said:

“The OEA has extensive and unrivalled experience of handling consumer complaints and providing effective redress where problems arise. The PCCB brings a very hands-on and practical approach to complement this. Our programme of risk-based inspections gives us the ability to act quickly and secure changes in practice where these are needed, and we aim to support those in the industry who are striving to maintain high standards. Bringing the two approaches together promises to add real value to our efforts and is designed to assure consumers that we have their interests to the fore.”

Bill McClintock, Board Chairman of OEA said:

“These arrangements will enhance the consistency of standards for those responsible for delivering HIPs and will help consumers understand the process.”

The MOU is consistent with the recommendations contained in two recent government report on consumer redress and consumer experiences of HIPs. The plans have been welcomed by Ministers and consumer representatives.

Mark McLaren of Which? said:

"Most consumers find buying or selling a house a stressful, confusing and difficult process. So any development that genuinely enhances the consumer experience has to be good news. It is vital that consumers are able to easily access clear advice when they have a query or complaint and have this addressed quickly and efficiently. So we welcome this move to develop a seamless relationship between the vast majority of estate agents and HIP and Search providers for the benefit of consumers."


Notes to editors

1. The Property Codes Compliance Board independently monitors compliance by registered subscribing companies with the HIP and Search Codes. The Codes provide protection for home buyers, sellers, estate agents and conveyancers relying on searches and HIPs, and include good practice standards, robust insurance requirements and the independent adjudication of complaints. The HIP Code is owned by the Association of Home Information Pack Providers and the Search Code by the Council of Property Search Organisations.

2. The Ombudsman for Estate Agents scheme offers a free, independent and impartial service to members of the public who are dissatisfied with the service provided by an estate agent who is a member of the scheme during the buying, selling or letting of a residential property. It covers around 95 per cent of estate agency offices in the UK.

3. A report of the government review of regulations and redress in the UK housing market, published on Tuesday 20th January stated that the range of voluntary and statutory redress schemes in the UK are “unnecessarily complex with consequent fears of a lack of consumer confidence and opportunities for unscrupulous practice”. It goes on to note that “there are still substantive inter-linkages and overlap of the target audiences between schemes. This is likely to cause some confusion for customers”.

4. For further information contact Kate Nicholls on 07958 796 238 (PCCB) or Maurice Hardy on 01264 771661 / 07831 272220 (OEA)