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The Office of Fair Trading bans several estate agents from working

publication date: Sep 21, 2008
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A ban for two Shropshire agents 

The OFT has issued prohibition orders against two estate agents in Wellington, Shropshire, banning them from estate agency work. 

An adjudicator found that Charles Grizzle - a former employee of Imperial Homes UK Ltd - failed to disclose, to a potential purchaser promptly and in writing, that a property being marketed by the company was owned by Luke Morris, a former director of the same company. 

In addition, a deposit was obtained from the purchaser, even though doing so is unlawful where an agent has a personal interest in the property, irrespective of whether or not that personal interest has been duly disclosed. The adjudicator also found that Mr Morris and Mr Grizzle fabricated a letter to the OFT in an attempt to conceal their actions Under Section 3(3) of the Act, Mr Morris and the company were liable as business associates for the breaches of the Act and the UPO committed by Mr Grizzle. 

The OFT has also made a warning order against the company itself. If it repeats the breaches of the legislation, it will also be banned from estate agency work. Mr Morris and Mr Grizzle are no longer employed by the company. 

Mike Haley, OFT Director of Consumer Protection, said: 'Estate agents have a duty to immediately disclose to prospective purchasers that they have a personal interest in the sale of a property they are marketing. In this case, matters were made worse by, the fabrication of letters to the OFT. As this case shows, we will take the strongest possible action against those whose dishonesty make them unfit to practice estate agency.' 

Northern Ireland agent banned 

A prohibition order was issued against Niall Maneely, a director of Maneely & Co, a Coalisland estate agent, banning him from estate agency work. 

An adjudicator found that Niall Maneely failed to disclose to a potential purchaser that a property being marketed by Maneely & Co was owned by his brother. In addition, Maneely & Co obtained a deposit from the purchaser, even though doing so is unlawful where the agent has a personal interest in the property, irrespective of whether or not that personal interest has been duly disclosed. 

The OFT has also made warning orders against Colm McGeown, a director of the company, and against the company itself. Mr McGeown and the company are jointly liable for the failure to disclose a personal interest and the unlawful obtaining of a deposit. If they repeat the breaches of the legislation, they will be banned from estate agency work.

Under Section 3(3) of the Act the company and Mr McGeown were liable as business associates for the breaches of the Act and the UPO committed by Mr Maneely. 

Mike Haley, OFT said: 'Estate Agents must immediately reveal to their clients that they have a personal interest in the sale of a property they are marketing. It is important for consumers to know if the agent has a potential conflict of interest.' 

Hampstead agents banned 

The OFT has made prohibition orders against two Hampstead estate agents banning them both from estate agency work. 

Malcolm Green, a director of Greenfields Estate Agents and Gem Shevket, an employee of the same company, have been convicted of offences involving fraud or other dishonesty as referred to in the Estate Agents Act 1979. As a result the OFT consider them to be unfit to carry on doing estate agency work. 

Mike Haley, OFT Director of Consumer Protection, said: 'This case again demonstrates that the OFT will take a hard line against estate agents who are unsuitable to continue working in the industry owing to their dishonesty.' 

And a warning for a Surrey Estate Agent 

The OFT has issued a warning order against Raja Padcham, owner of RSR Estate Agents, London Road, Croydon. The order is based on Mr Padcham's failure to disclose to a vendor, in writing, his personal interest in the purchase of a property as well as his failure to pass on, in writing, offers made on the same property to the vendor, as required by the Estate Agents (Undesirable Practices) (No.2) Order 1991. 

Mike Haley, OFT said: 'Estate agents must be transparent with their clients about any personal interest in a property that is marketed by them. The OFT has powers to take tough action against agents to ensure they meet their legal obligations in the interest of consumers.'

E-COMMERCE AND THE LAW 

Several members have contacted The Estate Agent magazine to ask for a copy of the new NAEA logo. We are happy to forward this to members but it is also available to download from the NAEA website: www.naea.co.uk

While discussing the incorporation of the new logo into websites and printed materials with these members, it came to light that they did not know that there are regulations regarding the inclusion of various company details on websites.

These regulations are not particularly new but a revision from January 2007 added to the legal requirements. Many organisations currently make the mistake of thinking that the E-commerce Regulations do not apply to websites that do not sell online - in fact they apply to almost all websites. 

You may like to have a look at your website and make any amendments that are needed: 

Tips for complying with the E-commerce Regulations 

To comply with the general information requirements of the E-commerce Regulations 2002 you must give recipients of your online services:

Your business name, geographic address and other contact details including your email address. The name of the organisation with which the customer is contracting must be given. This might differ from the trading name. Any such difference should be explained – e.g. “XYZ.com is the trading name of XYZ Enterprises Limited.” A PO Box is unlikely to suffice as a geographic address; but a registered office address would. If the business is a company, the registered office address must be included.
Details of any publicly available register in which you are entered, together with your registration number or equivalent.
The particulars of the supervisory body if the service is subject to an authorisation scheme.
Details of any professional body (EG: NAEA!) with which you are registered.
Your VAT registration number – even if the website is not being used for e-commerce transactions. 

You must also ensure your website complies with part of the Companies Act 2006. From 1 January 2007 all companies in the UK must clearly state the company registration number, place of registration, registered office address and, if the company is being wound up, that fact, on all of their websites. Contrary to the fears of some, the specified information does not need to appear on every page. A common place to put this information is in the “About us” or “Legal info” page of the site. This rule also applies to any electronic communications sent out by your company, such as emails. 

The information is likely to appear in the footer of every email sent from a company, to avoid having to decide whether each email amounts to a “business letter” or not. Many companies do this already because the term “business letters” was thought likely to include emails even without this new clarification. 

So, stay on top of the law and ahead of the rest; make sure your stationery, printed advertising and websites include all the right details and all the right logos!