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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 11:47 GMT
New regime to protect homebuyers
People looking in an estate agent's window
Estate agents will have to join an ombudsman scheme
Plans to make it easier for customers to seek compensation from rogue estate agents have been unveiled in the Queen's Speech.

The Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill compels all UK estate agents to join a redress scheme.

About a third do not currently sign up to the voluntary Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA), set up by the industry.

In addition, the bill will see the merger of Energywatch, Postwatch and the National Consumer Council (NCC).

The government said the mergers would give "consumers a stronger and more coherent voice and offering better value for money".

An NCC spokesperson told BBC News that they welcomed the formation of a new super-consumer body which had the "potential to win change for consumers at the heart of government".

Reforms

The proposed reforms of the estate agency industry will capture the public mood.

The latest OEA annual report recorded a 9% rise in complaints to 6,021.

Complaints included allegations of agents deliberately over-valuing properties to secure business, over-charging, fee-fixing among local agents and wrong descriptions of houses.

More than half were made against estate agents that were not members of the OEA, about which the ombudsman could do nothing.

Currently those customers would have to seek compensation through the courts.

If the bill is passed, the Office of Fair Trading will have its enforcement power expanded when it comes to tackling rogue agents.

The bill will also require estate agents to keep client records which can be inspected by Trading Standards officers.




QUEEN'S SPEECH 2006

KEY COVERAGE

ISSUE-BY-ISSUE COVERAGE
 

ANALYSIS AND FEATURES
Boxing gloves Gloves are off
Tony Blair denies using politics of fear... then warns Cameron he faces a thumping

BACKGROUND
Pomp and pageantry

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