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Press releases 2002 -

On the road to OFT approval

OEA and VBRA codes promise better deal for consumers

PN 69/02    28 October 2002

Two trade bodies have passed the first milestone towards OFT approval for their new consumer codes of practice.

The Ombudsman for Estate Agents Company Ltd (the OEA Company) and the Vehicle Builders and Repairers Association Ltd (VBRA) have each achieved stage one status for their respective codes of practice under the OFT's new approach to consumer codes. This means that the codes of practice meet the core criteria set out by the OFT (see note 5).

The next stage will involve the OEA Company and the VBRA demonstrating to the OFT that the promises made at stage one have been delivered in practice.

The OEA Company code promises:

  • a disciplinary council to deal with members who do not deliver the promises in the code
  • consumer surveys aimed at testing levels of code compliance and consumer satisfaction
  • guidance for code members on the use of fairer, clearer contract provisions.

The VBRA code promises to provide:

  • a disciplinary committee to deal with members who do not deliver the promises in the code
  • estimates and/or quotations available to all customers, with an explanation of the difference between the two
  • customer satisfaction cards.

The OEA Company and the VBRA must now prove that their codes are working before receiving approval. The OFT will assess code sponsors' performance in monitoring the new codes' effectiveness.

Codes that successfully achieve the second stage will carry an OFT logo and receive official promotion. Only codes that are shown to safeguard and promote consumers' interests will be approved and promoted by the OFT.

Acknowledging the work already carried out by the OEA Company and the VBRA, Penny Boys, Deputy Director General of Fair Trading, said:

'I warmly welcome the steps taken by the OEA and the VBRA. The new code approval scheme will raise standards of customer service and I hope more industry bodies will follow suit. I look forward to working with them to ensure we can give them full approval at stage two.'

NOTES

1. The OEA Company was established to run the Ombudsman for Estate Agents Scheme. OEA Company members represent 35 per cent of estate agents in the UK. For further details about the OEA Company and to view its Residential Estate Agency Code of Practice for the OEA Scheme, visit its website at www.oea.co.uk

2. The OEA Company submitted its code on 5 September 2001 for assessment under the OFT's new approach for approving and promoting business-to-consumer codes of practice.

3. The VBRA is a non-profit making trade association, covering vehicle body repairers. For further details about the VBRA and to view its code of practice visit its website at www.vbra.co.uk

4. The VBRA submitted its code on 11 September 2001 for assessment under the OFT's new approach for approving and promoting business-to-consumer codes of practice.

5. The new OFT codes regime comprises two stages:

Stage one – the code sponsor makes a promise that its code meets the OFT's core criteria in principle. The sponsor must make sure its code contains measures designed to remove or ease consumer concerns and undesirable trading practices in its sector.

Stage two - the code sponsor must prove its code lives up to the initial promise. The burden of proof lies with the code sponsor. The code sponsor must also show that the code is being effectively implemented by all who claim to adhere to it and that consumer disputes are properly resolved.

Only when a code sponsor has passed both stages and an evaluation of how effectively the code is working has been made will the code receive OFT approval.

6. In the February 2001 consultation paper 'The OFT's new approach to consumer codes of practice', the OFT set out its criteria for the selection of priority sectors and listed seven priority sectors – used cars, car repair and servicing, credit, funerals, travel, estate agents and direct marketing. Code sponsors from these sectors were invited to submit their codes for assessment.

7. The forthcoming Enterprise Bill, scheduled for Royal Assent in November 2002, will broaden the OFT's role in promoting self-regulation through codes of practice.

8. In this press release the functions of the Director General of Fair Trading (DGFT) are for simplicity described as the functions of 'the OFT'. The Enterprise Bill proposes to replace the office of the DGFT with the OFT, to which would be transferred the DGFT's functions.




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