The Property Ombudsman’s Sales Code approved by TSI
The Property Ombudsman (TPO) has become the first property organisation to have a Code of Practice approved by The Trading Standard Institute (TSI) under their Consumer Code Approval Scheme.
TPO has also become the largest organisation to be accredited by the Consumer Code Approval Scheme since its launch after TSI officially approved its Sales Code, which nearly 12,000 sales agents have signed up to.
As the largest property ombudsman scheme in the UK, TPO has more than 22,000 registered agents and the scheme has attracted more than 95 percent of the residential sales market to sign up for its Code of Practice and redress service.
The Consumer Code Approval Scheme replaces the Office of Fair Trading scheme and enables agents to offer enhanced consumer protection, with 26,530 traders already signed up to one of the ten codes of practice.
TPO sales agents will now be able to display the TSI Approved Code logo in their advertising, branches and within company literature . Consumers will be able to look for TPO sales agents through a dedicated database on www.tradingstandards.gov.uk, to find a member of an approved code in their area.
Confirming the news, Property Ombudsman Christopher Hamer (pictured) said: "I am delighted that TPO has become the largest organisation to win approval from TSI for its Consumer Code Approval Scheme. The TPO Code is a recognised set of standards throughout the industry but it is important that it is also seen as being independently approved by a credible organisation.
“With the OFT’s withdrawal from the code approval process it is good news that TSI have stepped in to fulfil the important role of rigorous examination and approval for consumer-focussed codes.”
Mr Hamer added: “This news means that agents who are members of TPO actively offer the highest level of consumer protection for buyers and sellers. We are in active discussions with TSI to achieve scheme approval for the Lettings Code of Practice.”
The scheme was given the Government’s official backing by Consumer Minister Jo Swinson at the TSI’s annual conference in Brighton. Jo welcomed TSI taking on the scheme and said it will boost consumer confidence and encourage economic growth.
Baroness Crawley of Edgbaston, chair of the new Consumer Codes Approval Board, which is responsible for independently evaluating the codes of practice operated by trade bodies, said: "Industry is well placed to understand the demands and expectations of their customers, but those consumers need the added confidence that industry codes of practice have been verified as fit for purpose by an independent body - that's where the Trading Standards Institute comes in."
The new scheme includes both a Consumer Advisory Panel, but also a permanent position for Citizens Advice on the Board. Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said: “We deal with over a million consumer problems each year and know how difficult it is for people to find a seller they can trust, the Approved Trader Scheme will help to combat this.”
TPO is among the first trade bodies sponsoring the new code. It joins: British Association of Removers, British Healthcare Trades Association, Debt Managers Standards Association, Institute of Professional Will Writers, Motor Codes Ltd, Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd, Robert Bosch Ltd, The Carpet Foundation and Vehicle Builders Repairers Association Ltd.
Notes to the editor:
Trading Standards Institute (TSI)
TSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. It aims to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities.
TSI’s members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses.
The Trading Standards Institute also hosts the UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) which provides consumer advice with regards to cross border disputes within the EU and also the European Consumer Centre Service (ECCS).
What is The Property Ombudsman (TPO)?
The Property Ombudsman scheme has been offering a free, independent and impartial dispute resolution service to consumers who are dissatisfied with the service provided by registered firms since 1990. The Ombudsman can provide redress to place the consumer back in the position they occupied before the complaint arose to achieve a full and final settlement of the dispute and all claims made by either party. Where appropriate, the Ombudsman can make compensatory awards in individual cases up to a maximum of £25,000 for actual and quantifiable loss and / or for aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused by the actions of a registered firm.
The Property Ombudsman currently provides redress for consumers using 25,500 offices in the UK (inc. 11,745 residential sales estate agency branches and 10,391 residential lettings offices).
Whilst TPO charges registered firms an annual subscription, the Ombudsman is accountable to the TPO Council, the majority of which is made up of non-industry members. The Council appoints the Ombudsman and sets his Terms of Reference (i.e. how the complaint process operates). The Ombudsman is required to report to the Council on a regular basis.
The Ombudsman is not a regulator and does not have the authority to take regulatory or legal action against a registered firm. However, member firms can be referred to the TPO Disciplinary and Standards Committee, appointed by the Council, which has the power to expel firms from the scheme and / or report them to the Office of Fair Trading, which has the ability to ban firms from carrying out estate agency business.
The Ombudsman’s Terms of Reference, the Codes of Practice, Consumer Guides and other documents about the operation of the scheme are available on our website (www.tpos.co.uk), together with previous annual and interim reports, further explanation of governance arrangements and a full list of registered firms.
For press information, please contact:
Press & Communications Manager
The Property Ombudsman Limited
M: 07415 684548
For more information about TPO, please visit our website at www.tpos.co.uk
DATE: 18 August 2013