OneSearch Direct, the private search company, says the National Land Information Service has yet to offer official local searches via private suppliers and loosen control of its brand and software despite a report from the Office of Fair Trading recommending changes in the local search market.
The NLIS is a joint initiative between central and local government to provide an online one-stop shop, delivering land and property related information that is held by many different organisations. It allows local searches, essential searches for buying and selling property, to be carried out via the internet.
The OFT recommended that the rules that govern the NLIS should be liberalised so that its brand and software are more widely available. It also ruled that non-NLIS players, such as private search companies, should be able to compete in the electronic search marketplace with their NLIS-licensed rivals.
The ruling should mean that private search companies are entitled to the same local search information as local authorities and that the NLIS no longer has a monopoly on the electronic delivery of searches.
However, to date there is no evidence that the NLIS is liaising with private suppliers of electronic searches to ensure its service is truly competitive with the private sector.
Ronnie Park, managing director of OneSearch Direct, says: “Released from the exclusivity restrictions of its initial license, the NLIS is now free to form partnerships and integrate itself with private channels. It is now imperative for the market, particularly with the onset of Home Information Packs, that timely and strategic adjustments are made. The NLIS needs to change to comply with the OFTs recommendations.”
Park says these changes will lead to more alliances in the market. He adds: “Now that local authorities and The NLIS will not have preferential information over private competitors, the NLIS should liaise with the suppliers of private electronic searches to remain truly competitive.”