Estate agents are to face a year-long investigation into their £4bn-a-year ($5.8bn) business in Engl...
Estate agents are to face a year-long investigation into their £4bn-a-year ($5.8bn) business in England and Wales. The move follows a doubling in the number of official complaints about the profession in the past five years, says the FT.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) will examine fee structures, how effectively competition operates among the 9,000 to 10,000 firms and how well the Estate Agents Act is working. It will also study the very different selling practices and legal arrangements in Scotland, the US and European countries.
The inquiry was announced by John Vickers, the director general of fair trading, who, amid sharply rising house prices, said there was evidence of "increasing concern from consumers about the services they receive".
The investigation comes on the back of warnings to estate agents from the OFT three years ago that "undesirable practices" have crept back into the market, ranging from gazumping (where the seller accepts a higher offer from another prospective buyer) to attempts to tie buyers to financial services from a particular agent.
Up to 500,000 Cheltenham & Gloucester mortgage borrowers could be in line for compensation after the Financial Ombudsman made a preliminary ruling against the company's use of dual mortgage rates, says the Daily Telegraph.
C&G would not give specific details about the complaint against it but it relates to the company's use of two "standard" rates for borrowers from April 30 last year to September 10. It removed the second rate after rulings against other lenders.
The ruling is not yet binding but the firm, now part of Lloyds TSB, has one month to appeal against the Ombudsman's decision. However, appeals against similar cases with Halifax, Nationwide and HSBC were thrown out by the Ombudsman, resulting in compensation totalling millions of pounds to borrowers.
The number of people in Britain earning six-figure incomes has risen by almost 50 per cent over the past five years, official figures have shown, revealing how the changing jobs market has increased the inequality of earnings, adds the FT.
Figures calculated from tax records by the Inland Revenue, published on its website, show that there are thought to be 326,000 people in Britain who will earn £100,000 a year or more before tax this year, up from 222,000 in 1998-99. 285,000 of them are men, and just 41,000 of them women.
And the BBC is to team up with BSkyB, the satellite broadcaster, to try to create a digital terrestrial television service to replace ITV Digital, which collapsed last month with losses of £1.2 billion, reports the Times.
The move is likely to anger rival broadcasters such as ITV and Channel 4, which had been trying to form a single consortium together with the BBC to bid for the licences. It is understood that the BBC broke ranks with the rest of the consortium after failing to agree on a formula on how to divide up the licences. "This is a very cynical manoeuvre by the BBC," a rival broadcaster said yesterday.
If successful, the bid will mark the first joint venture arrangement between the BBC and BSkyB. A third partner, Crown Castle Communications, will provide transmitter expertise for the venture.
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