AKC News // Estate agents get two days to comply on sale price figures

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) has given estate agents just two days to provide it with undertakings that published price details of properties sold through private treaty or withdrawn from auction will be "absolutely accurate". Conor Pope reports

At a meeting with the Irish Auctioneers and Valuers Institute (IAVI) and the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV) yesterday, the consumer agency relayed its "very serious concerns" in relation to the accuracy of private treaty sale prices that are published in newspapers.

It pointed out that the provision of false information was illegal under the Consumer Protection Act 2007 and reminded both the IAVI and the IPAV that it had extensive powers under the Act, which it would not hesitate to use if necessary.

The National Consumer Agency sought the meeting after a letter was written by The Irish Times to estate agents about some exaggerated sales prices being submitted for publication in its property supplement.

While the rules of both bodies prohibit the issuing of false information, the consumer agency said it was common practice for estate agents to publish approximate, rather than specific, prices.

It has requested that, in future, rounding up prices or using phrases such as "in the region of" would not be used and that the price, if reported or otherwise divulged by an agent, would be the actual price paid for a property.

The consumer agency warned that in the absence of such an undertaking, it would use its powers under the Consumer Protection Act 2007 to investigate historic reporting practices by individual auctioneers and estate agents.

At the meeting it was agreed that both bodies would revert to the NCA by tomorrow afternoon.

Speaking to The Irish Times, NCA chief executive Ann Fitzgerald described the meeting as "genuinely very constructive" and expressed her optimism that the issue would be resolved before the end of the week.

"This is a serious issue on number of fronts and it needs to be resolved quickly," she said, in order to remove uncertainty from the market.

IAVI chief executive Alan Cooke also described the meeting as "very constructive and productive" and said he was in the process of getting approval for the new undertakings from his organisation's members.

He expressed confidence that he would be in a position to respond to the consumer agency ahead of the Thursday afternoon deadline.

Source: The Irish Times

Date : 30-04-2008