***Property Industry Eye Article***
The Property Ombudsman is to issue updated versions of all its Codes of Practice in order to address emerging industry issues, primarily ‘portal juggling’.
The practice involves the manipulation of property portals. TPO said today this misleads consumers by removing and re-listing homes on the portals, enabling agents “to hide price cuts and give the impression a property is new to the market when it is not”.
TPO’s new Code will say: “All advertisements must be legal, decent, honest and truthful in accordance with the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing.
“Manipulating internet portals (and other channels of marketing) to give the impression a property is new to the market, when it is not; inflating your market share by listing properties multiple times; listing properties that are not currently available to buy; or claiming to have sold a property which was sold by another agent; is misleading.”
Other revisions to the Codes will include:
> Disclosure on pre-contract deposits – to clearly define the actions required to ensure all parties involved in a pre-contract deposit arrangement have agreed to the terms and conditions attached to the payment.
> VAT on fees – to ensure all fees and charges are quoted inclusive of VAT.
> Disclosure of referencing – adding the provision that landlords receive all relevant facts, regardless of whether the tenant has met or failed to meet the referencing criteria.
Gerry Fitzjohn, chairman of the TPO board, said: “The decision was taken to carry out a full review of the Codes to reflect market developments and provide clear definitions of unfair practices.
“Our Codes already state that all advertisements must be legal, decent, honest and truthful, but now go one step further to clarify that ‘portal juggling’, in its various forms, is misleading to consumers.
“Evidence of member agents found to be carrying out such poor practice could be reported to the Disciplinary and Standard’s Committee, NTSEAT and/or local Trading Standards.”
Ombudsman Katrine Sporle will apply the new Codes when reviewing consumer complaints about events that have occurred after October 1.
TPO’s clampdown follows clarification last month from the industry regulator, the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team, that portal juggling is fraudulent, illegal and could lead to prosecution, criminal records and/or industry bans.
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