OFT to investigate estate agent industry

OFT to investigate estate agent industry


The Office of Fair Trading has announced that it will launch a study of the estate agent industry next year, due to growing fears of unregulated online agencies, low consumer satisfaction and a decline in competitive prices.  

The OFT will take a “comprehensive look” at the industry and talk to businesses, Government and consumer groups to highlight the most important issues that the sector is currently facing.


The move comes after the OFT became concerned about the increase of internet property agencies and whether consumer interests are being protected by the existing regulatory framework.


It has been a difficult year for estate agents, who are being particularly damaged by the economic downturn and plummeting house prices. Previous research has shown that on average, estate agents are making less than one property sale a week, while in London the situation is even graver, with estate agents making just two sales a month.


There has been a so-called “exodus” of estate agents over the last few months, although estate agent job losses were originally marked around 15,000, the drawn out slump of the property market has meant that economists have now doubled the figure and even hinted that it could rise to as much as 50,000.  


However, the chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents, Peter Bolton King, has welcomed the announcement from the OFT, saying: “The NAEA has long called for appropriate regulation of the market and I hope that the OFT will recommend the same when it concludes its study.”


Mr Bolton King added that “there is nothing to stop anybody from becoming an estate agent and there is a real need for consumers to be aware of this.”


The OFT chief executive, John Fingleton, said: “We want to ensure that consumers are served well when buying or selling a home and are supported by an effective, competitive and innovative market.”


The last OFT review of the estate agent sector came in 2004, with the conclusion that the industry needed better self-regulation and clearer pricing controls.

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