8 December 2004

OFT looks at the property search industry

The Council of Property Search Organisations (CoPSO) welcomes today's announcement by the Office of Fair Trading that it will undertake a study of the property search market. CoPSO has argued that there should be greater access to information held by local authorities and other public bodies so it can be included in property search reports. These reports provide homebuyers with essential information in deciding whether to buy a particular property.

The OFT has received complaints from search companies about the difficulties they experience in accessing property information from public bodies such as local authorities and the Environment Agency, each of which has a statutory monopoly over the information they hold.

CoPSO believes that it is essential for there to be increased rights of access to information required for search reports, to ensure that Home Information Packs can be compiled efficiently and without delay. This information should also be made available electronically, to tie-in with the Government's objective of developing e-conveyancing.

Commenting on the announcement, CoPSO Chairman Fiona Hoyle said:

"We welcome the OFT's decision to carry out a study into the property search market. The demand for searches has risen dramatically over the past five years and they now play a crucial role in the homebuying process. Certain local authorities consistently fail to provide reasonable access to search information, leading to unnecessary delays in conveyancing transactions. This monopoly position must be addressed in advance of the new homebuying and selling reforms being introduced."

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