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Agents quick to sign on to OEA code of practice

The Ombudsman for Estate Agents has reported a strong response to its code of practice scheme with agents signing up at faster rates than inquiries can be lodged or cases investigated.

A report by Christopher Hamer, ombudsman of the OEA, shows that while member numbers climbed by 60% during 2007 the number of complaints received within my terms of reference only increased by 48% for residential sales.

Hamer also says a 63% rise in the number of cases closed during 2007 when compared with 2006 is an indication of increased efficiency at the organization.

Hamer says: “People should be encouraged by the news in my report this year, the first that covers a full year with me as Ombudsman.

“There is generally much more focus now on consumer redress, led in the residential property field by the OEA for 18 years. The introduction of Home Information Packs last summer meant every residential estate agent in England and Wales was obliged to have redress in place for its HIPs activities, bringing a huge rise in membership.”

The report says that the vast majority of agents who registered for HIPs in fact did more than the legal minimum required and signed up to the OEA’s full code of practice that covers all agent activities.

Hamer says they did so well before the new law required it.

He says: “This means that as consumers have greater protection under the new laws, they can be assured that we at the OEA, if we become an approved scheme, will do our utmost to see their dispute through to a satisfactory resolution as speedily as possible. If the new law is to have teeth then it needs to bring results within a reasonable time so that disputes do not become protracted and consumers disillusioned.

“During 2008, we will continue to advise and guide consumers who contact us so that those who consider they have a grievance concerning an estate agent feel they have some support.

Lord Borrie, former director-general of fair trading, adds: “At last legislation is catching up with what the OEA has been trying to achieve for many years.

“The new Consumer, Estate Agents and Redress Act can only be good for all involved but especially consumers, who can now feel confident that disputes will be resolved by a system that is so much better than lengthy and expensive legal proceedings.

“The OEA costs them nothing to use – it is totally free to the consumer.”

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