Providers in the quick house sales sector investigation

Office of Fair Trading (OFT) closed consumer enforcement case.

Case reference: MP-G&C/0014

Complaint: OFT own initiative investigation

Issue

On 23 July 2013 the OFT opened formal investigations into the business practices of four national quick house sale companies.

The investigation followed the publication of the OFT's market study into the quick house sales sector. The study was launched in April 2013 to find out whether this sector works well for home sellers given concerns about the risks to sellers in vulnerable situations, such as older people (for example when they need to move due to declining health) or those who need to clear debts and/or avoid repossession. We also noted that where sellers get a bad deal, they could lose a lot of money.

Relevant legislation

The Enterprise Act 2002; the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008; the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999, Estate Agents Act 1979.

Summary of work

Quick house sale providers, as a distinctive feature of their service, offer to buy a house or find a third party buyer very quickly, usually at a discount on the full market value of the property being sold.

Following the investigation by the OFT, Box MX Limited, BTA Properties Limited, Gateway Homes UK Limited and Property Rescue Limited agreed to improve their business practices and provided undertakings about their future behaviour which embed good practice and address wider concerns highlighted by the OFT's market study report (pdf 800kb) published in August 2013.

The undertakings given include:

  • ensuring marketing materials clearly, accurately and prominently set out the key information and risks relating to the sales process
  • conducting valuations in a fair and professional manner, and  in good faith
  • promptly sharing relevant information about the progress of the sale, including anything that might affect the final offer price or completion date
  • promising not to reduce conditional or final offer prices without a valid reason.

The businesses engaged constructively with the OFT during its investigation and the signed undertakings will provide greater clarity and confidence to consumers considering a quick house sale. No admissions have been requested by the OFT, nor made by the companies, as to liability in respect of past conduct.

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