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Bournemouth estate agent ordered to pay for misleading customers

Friday 01 November 2019

A Bournemouth estate agent must pay out tens of thousands of pounds for misleading its customers and allowing one of its employees to value a house they wanted to own.

Illsley and Son Ltd, trading as Meridian Estate Agents, had been charged with eleven offences under Unfair Trading Regulations.

Legal representatives for the company admitted nine of the allegations at Poole Magistrates' Court – five counts of engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading action containing false information, three of trader engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading omission and one of trader knowingly or recklessly engaging in a commercial practice.

Two charges of trader engaging in a commercial practice which was aggressive were dropped by prosecutors.

Prosecutors said a series of false claims were made to both vendors and buyers.

The company falsely informed a buyer that they needed to help with vendors' fees when the vendor wasn't required to pay a fee.  Another buyer in Poole was informed that they had to pay the commission fee as the vendor didn't want to pay it. However, Meridian had offered the vendor a zero per cent commission deal.

In one case, material information was omitted in the purchase of a house in Bournemouth when the estate agents failed to advise that VAT was payable on the fee.

One of the most serious charges related to a home in Bournemouth, which Meridian allowed an employee to value the property while knowing the employee wanted to buy it. A false statement was then made regarding the payment of a commission fee.

The company admitted the offences on the first day of a planned trial last week. Meridian remains open. It has a second branch in Parkstone.

The company, which was prosecuted by BCP Council's Trading Standards team, must now pay out £40,034 in fines, compensation and victim surcharge fees.

Councillor Lewis Alison of BCP Council said: “Following a complaint to our Trading Standards team, an investigation was carried out into the practices of Meridian Estate Agents.

"This uncovered further evidence that buyers and sellers had been misled about an offer relating to the fees charged by the agent.

"The company also fell short of the requirements of professional diligence by allowing a member of staff to value a property for which they had a personal interest. Buying and selling a house is one of the largest financial decisions made by consumers and estate agents have a duty in law to provide full and accurate information.

Are you transparent on fees?

Propertymark encourages all agents to make themselves aware of the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team (NTSELAT) guidance on referral fees and ensure they are making fees more open and transparent to consumers. 

Referral fees  

Propertymark Consumer Guides

Propertymark has produced a consumer guide on what fees they should expect to pay, and the questions that they should ask their agent. 

Consumer guide