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News: Measures to curb cowboy estate agents unveiled

Every estate agent in England will be forced to join an Ombudsman scheme or be banned from trading, trade minister Ian McCartney has revealed.

The measures were unveiled by the minister in an interview with Property Week magazine, which has been running a long campaign to regulate agents.

The minister was presented with a shoal of emails and letters from the magazine’s readers calling for him to regulate the industry.

McCartney said the measures would form part of a new Consumer Bill giving stronger powers to trading standards officials to investigate malpractice. Victims of unscrupulous agents may be compensated under the proposals.

The Bill would be a "massive extension of the regulatory regime to secure an open, transparent and effective market," the minister said.

The Department of Trade and Industry believes compulsory membership of the Ombudsman scheme will curb the worst abuses. However, until now compulsory membership of the Ombudsman scheme has been voluntary and only about 60% of agents have joined.

Some of the country’s largest estate agents have still not joined the scheme. Several non-members of the Ombudsman scheme were subjects of the BBC1 consumer show Whistleblower, which revealed serious malpractice.

Giles Barrie, editor of Property Week, said: "At last, the government has acknowledged the damage rogue estate agents can do to people's lives, which we have highlighted in our campaign-Good agents have nothing to fear but the bad apples now need to clean up their act fast."

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