HIPS – Industry action defies downturn

PCCB Chairman Richard Footitt said:

“The PCCB’s work to improve consumer standards continues to go from strength to strength regardless of the current downturn. Few would doubt that the property market has had a torrid time of late, but the PCCB’s work proves the industry’s continued commitment to guaranteeing high quality consumer standards. Despite the fact that the vast majority of HIP and search providers are really feeling the squeeze, the number of companies subscribing to the industry codes of practice has risen by 10%. Our industry’s message is clear: a drop in business is no excuse for a drop in standards.”

The PCCB’s annual report shows that the Board has taken a two-pronged approach to its work. On the one hand, it has introduced new measures to help identify any failings that may compromise the consumer experience of HIP and property search products. At the same time, it has matched this by taking swift action to deal with companies breaching the industry standards.

Footitt continues:

“We have been active in identifying areas for concerns and in then tackling them. In addition to our existing assessment model that identifies areas where there is a high likelihood of non-compliance, we’ve introduced new pre-registration checks for potential subscribers and boosted our investment in enforcement and compliance activity.

“We’re taking swift action against those whose standards we find to be slipping, not only through sanctions, but also through recommended actions to sustain best practice.  In the worst cases, we have the power to refer any possible breaches of the law to other regulatory bodies and, if needs be, to the police.”

The PCCB 2008/9 annual report shows that the Board has sought to drive up standards even where a breach of the HIP and Search Codes hasn’t taken place.  These areas include:

–          Terms & conditions of HIP services

–          Marketing

–          Complaints procedures

–          Internal auditing

–          Prescribed information.

Footitt concludes:

“Whilst we are an industry body, our perspective is that of the ordinary home buyer and seller. Our annual report shows how the HIP and Search industry has been active in promoting best practice and driving out bad to ensure that our industry meets the high standards consumers expect. Home buyers and sellers should be reassured that relying on HIPs and searches sourced from Code subscribers is the best guarantee of cost and quality available in the market.”

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