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Ombudsman to tackle rigging of online property portals

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  • 27/09/2016
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Ombudsman to tackle rigging of online property portals
The Property Ombudsman has outlined its intention to address the manipulation of online property portals, known as ‘portal juggling’, by issuing updated versions of its Codes of Practices on 1 October.

According to the Ombudsman, some agents are misleading consumers by removing and re-listing homes on property portals, allowing them to disguise price cuts and giving the false impression that a property is new to the market.

Other issues that the Ombudsman will address in its revision to the codes include; disclosure on pre-contract deposits, VAT on fees and disclosure of referencing, to ensure landlords receive all relevant facts, regardless of whether the tenant has met or failed to meet the referencing criteria.

Paula Higgins of HomeOwners Alliance said she was glad to see the regulator intervene.

“Buying a house is the biggest purchase of your life and you need to know the information you have is accurate when deciding whether to view and, most importantly, how to decide and negotiate the price,” she said.

“Without accurate information home buyers are at a big disadvantage and estate agents and their clients, the home seller are the winners. This isn’t a level playing field.”

Gerry Fitzjohn, chairman of the The Property Ombudsman Board, added: “The decision was taken to carry out a full review of the Codes to reflect market developments and provide clear definitions of unfair practices. Our Codes already state that all advertisements must be legal, decent, honest and truthful, but now go one step further to clarify that ‘portal juggling’, in its various forms, is misleading to consumers.

“As the industry changes, it’s necessary to release new versions of our Codes to ensure agents fully understand their responsibilities and adhere to best practice.”

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