From Peter Gladdy
With reference to Rosemary Gallagher's article 'OFT: Agents pushing services' (Mortgage Strategy March 29) it is my opinion as the compliance director of Mortgages Direct, the financial services subsidiary of the country's largest independent estate agency group, that the Office of Fair Trading has failed to call for the measures needed to protect consumers and improve the way the profession operates.
The OFT, in its report into estate agency, talks about the need to raise standards in the industry but misses a golden opportunity to call for the necessary regulation to do the job properly.
Together with the board of our parent company Spicerhaart, I am extremely disappointed that the licensing of estate agents was rejected. Nor was there any call for entry level qualifications to ensure that people who set up estate agencies are qualified. A further letdown was that there was no request for every estate agent to have to be a member of the Ombudsman scheme.
However, we concur with the OFT's findings that many agents suggest buyers would be more successful in getting the house they want if they used the financial services offered by the agent.
From what our customers tell us this is a widespread practice among many of our competitors and one that should be wiped out.
Whilst our own registered mortgage advisers and the staff in our estate agency branches will always advise prospective buyers of the benefits of utilising our fully independent – as defined by the FSA – inhouse services, no pressure is ever exerted and buyers are perfectly free, as they always should be, to obtain their mortgage advice from whichever qualified source they prefer.
We want our industry to clean up its act. The OFT had an opportunity to bring about the changes the estate agency profession needs but it's been a damp squib. Not only will the public feel cheated, but so will the profession at large.