Open letter to the OFT
The Office of Fair Trading’s (OFT) proposals (18th February) to change the laws under which properties are sold in the UK to favour the involvement of Tesco, seriously both negates and brings into question the OFT’s role of consumer protection in the UK.
Under the Property Misdescriptions Act of 1991, it is a criminal offence for estate agents to make false or misleading statements regarding properties placed on the market. The OFT is advocating a change in this law to allow certain corporations such as Tesco to be exempt from the Act. This would place the burden of responsibility on the seller to ensure that all information on the marketing of the property is accurate.
Presumably the OFT will also be excusing the supermarket chain the bother of having to comply with the Money Laundering Act and having to provide an Energy Performance Certificate or Home Information Pack. For a senior Director of the OFT to be happy to advocate the sweeping aside of carefully considered legislation aimed at consumer protection, energy conservation and anti-money laundering, defies belief.
The average home owner cannot be expected to have the skills to assess the state of their own property, nor navigate their way through the complex regulations that they would need to abide by in order to sell a property.
The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) has always been in favour of protecting consumer rights. We recognise that buying or selling a home will, for most people, be the most complicated and greatest financial transaction of their lives. But these OFT proposals have been ill-thought through and do not take into account the complexities of the buying and selling process which a private seller would have to face.
The NAEA has been calling for more stringent regulation of estate agents to offer additional and necessary protection for consumers, which is why we will be introducing our own licensing scheme for NAEA members later in the year.
The OFT really should not be seeking publicity with these wild headlines but should instead concentrate on fulfilling their role – that of consumer protection and adherence to Trading Standards.
President, National Association of Estate Agents