Authority welcomes probe into quick sales

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Council chiefs have welcomed an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation into unfair business practices in the quick home sale market.

The OFT announced this week it is investigating practices by companies that left struggling homeowners tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Derbyshire County Council is supporting the OFT action and is now calling on local people to report firms that use unscrupulous tactics to get people to part with their homes at knock-down prices.

The regulator has written to 120 companies across the UK and is formally investigating three unnamed businesses for alleged unfair practices.

Councillor Dave Allen, Derbyshire’s Cabinet Member for Health and Communities, said: “It’s great news that the regulator is taking a lead in tackling companies that prey on people who are often facing severe financial hardship and difficult choices.

“Although we recognise the place in the market for fast-track house sales, it’s an industry that should be subject to the most rigorous ethical standards to protect customers from exploitation.

“We want to urge people who have sold their homes at a discount via ‘quick property sale’ companies to report abuse if they feel they’ve been misled.”

The regulator’s earlier investigations uncovered examples of firms exploiting people’s difficult financial circumstances. They included:

l reducing the price at the last minute when the seller was already financially committed

l making misleading claims about the property’s value and discount

l inducing sellers to sign up to exclusivity contracts, which carried large severance penalties.

Councillor Allen added: “The victims are often people who feel they have few options due to issues such as debt, unemployment or declining health. This is all the more reason for companies to be clear, consistent and trustworthy.”

For consumer advice people can call the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 08454 04 05 06 or visit www.derbyshireconsumerhub.info.