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Name change marks boost to property consumer protection

There will be a new logo for window displays, in blue with the OFT Approved Codes symbol alongside for sales offices and green without the OFT logo for lettings. Commercial property sales members will have a black logo when the scheme expands soon to cover some of their activities

"Membership has increased dramatically in the past few years and at the same time OEA has also expanded to take in lettings as well as its original remit to cover agents selling residential property," said Bill McClintock, chief operating officer for TPOS.

"In the near future, we will also be embracing some commercial property activities as well as the UK end of foreign residential property transactions.

"As the principal means of redress for consumers in the property sector, reflected by 95% of UK estate agency offices being covered by our scheme, and our widening fields of activity which will also extend to including HIPs and property search providers, we consider the old name no longer reflected all that we do.

"We have submitted our lettings Code of Practice to the OFT for endorsement under its Consumer Codes Approval Scheme, which we see as vital in current market conditions where lettings are dominating activity.

"As the principal means of redress for consumers in the property sector we will continue to drive up industry standards and the OFT approved Codes help achieve this.

"There is already great awareness of the OEA symbol and we want that to apply to the new identity as well so the old and new are closely related.

"Consumers have come to recognise the value of the OEA being available to them and we want them to be aware of and understand this change."

Lord Best, newly-appointed chairman of the governing Council of the OEA in succession to former director general of fair trading Lord Borrie, assured consumers that none of the Ombudsman’s procedures would change and the public could expect the same high standards of service.

"Consumers should remember that the Property Ombudsman Service will continue to be offered to them free of charge and that estate agents undertake to adhere to the Ombudsman’s findings," Lord Best said.

In his latest annual report, the Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, revealed that he found wholly or partially in favour of consumers in 66% of cases he investigated and made awards totalling more than £380,000 to compensate them. He also disclosed that he had made the scheme’s highest ever award of £23,880.

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