PCCB Finds Good Personal Search Standards

A recent PCCB compliance exercise has revealed good quality standards amongst personal searches and confirmed that they are just as reliable as Local Authority Searches.

The audit was just one of a broad range of compliance activities undertaken throughout 2009: investigations focused particularly on the legitimacy of information sources used by a representative sample of Search Code subscribers. In summary, the audit confirmed that the searches sampled were substantially compliant with the relevant regulations and with the Search Code. It did identify some errors and/or omissions, and weak practices, in several searches but these same failings featured in searches conducted by local authorities in roughly equal measure. These issues have been addressed with the Code subscribers concerned, and appear to result from a lack of diligence rather than from deliberate attempts to short-circuit the provisions in the Code. PCCB will also be taking up its concerns with the Local Authorities sampled.

The experience gained from this exercise will inform the Board’s risk based approach to both compliance and enforcement of both the Search and HIP Codes of Practice in the coming year - and also feed into its work with different Trading Standards officers. The exercise has also enabled PCCB to develop and refine the guidance it issues to registered firms to further improve compliance.

PCCB Chairman, Richard Footitt said: “The PCCB is pleased to note the progress and improvements that have been made by the personal search industry during what was a very tough year. Our compliance activities show that Code subscribers are working hard to achieve high standards, and as we carry forward our work, we expect to see standards improve yet further. PCCB continues to attract new Code subscribers, and following on from our pre-registration product vetting processes, it is clear that there are significant benefits to be realised by firms registering with the PCCB, not least to bring their products up to Code standards. During 2010, we aim to develop our relationship with Trading Standards to the point where personal search firms currently outside the scope of the Code are subject to similar checks as those faced by Code subscribers.

We fully anticipate that further developments to the Code, together with the support we provide to registered firms, will ensure higher standards in 2010 and beyond to the benefit of consumers. Whatever happens in the future, it is vital that the significant progress and advances made by the personal search industry since HIPs were introduced are sustained by maintaining a regulatory framework. Searches containing accurate information and produced quickly up front are critical to the home buying and selling process, and a return to old practices is not acceptable.”



PCCB’s activity alongside Trading Standards is seen as being of key importance to ensure that the personal search and HIP products, and standards of practice, of providers outside the Codes of Practice is monitored and action taken where appropriate. To assist in this process, the PCCB has recently developed a compliance model specifically for use by Trading Standards officers. This initiative was recently presented to the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers with the aim of promoting take-up of the compliance model to as many Authorities as possible.