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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

TPO announces key changes as membership nears 20,000

The Property Ombudsman scheme (TPO) has announced a series of changes to both its board and internal processes.

The organisation has also confirmed that its membership reached 19,557 as of mid-August, following the addition of almost 1,200 residential agents over the last six months.

In the interest of promoting greater efficiency and effectiveness for both agents and consumers, TPO has replaced its board and council with a single unitary board.

It says this means pressing issues will no longer have to be approved by two parties and can be dealt with more quickly. 

The new board will be chaired by Baroness Diana Warwick and will retain a majority of independent members.

The changes see Gerry Fitzjohn and Michael Stoop - former chairman and vice-chairman of the board - take up non-executive director positions within the new framework.

Stoop will also take on the role of chair of the Industry Forum, while a separate Consumer Forum will be chaired by Mark McLaren.

Following a comprehensive review, TPO has also made key changes to its terms of reference. There will now be simultaneous issuing of proposed decisions on complaints to both consumers and agents.

This is designed to address criticism of perceived bias towards agents (as they saw the decision first if it was supported) and consumers (as they saw the decision first if it was not supported).

TPO says this will increase transparency and speed up the decision-making process.

The organisation has also installed the latest RESPOND system which reminds consumers and agents of upcoming deadlines, informing them of who is handling their case work.

"We have invested a significant amount of time and effort into reviewing the areas of our organisation which need refinement and implementing changes which will significantly benefit all who use our service," says Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman.

"While the future landscape of redress in the property sector remains unclear, we will continue to find positive solutions to the needs of consumers and the industry."

"Despite being at the centre of complaint handling, it is apparent that the industry sometimes struggles with how to approach complaint handling in a consistent way," she says.

"In response, we are committed to driving up standards by putting even greater emphasis on education, giving agents the right tools to handle complaints more effectively themselves."

TPO has also announced the launch of a new online training module, which aims to provide practical training to front-line agency staff who are tasked with responding to complaints and resolving disputes.

The first 1,000 agents who purchase TPO’s Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) course will receive the Complaints Handing course for free. You can see further details here.

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