News / General

OFT PROBES SEARCHERS

By SLAS Spokesperson

The Office of Fair Trading has announced that it is to investigate the property search market and it appears from the terms of this announcement that the investigation shall not be devolved but shall enquire into the whole UK market. The announcement identifies a number of public bodies who hold the information being searched including Local Authorities, the Land Registry, Registers of Scotland and others and it is explained that conveyancers can write to the authorities themselves or go through an online gateway to conduct electronic searches but that, in recent years, a number of specialist property search companies have been set up to co-ordinate different searches and to provide all-in-one packages for conveyancers. The OFT reports having received a number of complaints from such agencies about difficulties in obtaining information from the authorities as well as the level of charges and competition in the market as a whole. In particular, TM Property Searches, an online search provider, complained to the OFT about the prices charged for searches in the National Land Information Service, the electronic gateway through which online providers access Local Authority information. The OFT dismissed the complaint for the reason that there were other search methods available but, in the light of this issue and other complaints it has decided to investigate the entire market. There is no information available at this stage as to why the investigation should extend to the Scottish jurisdiction and, in particular, the National Land Information Service, in respect of whom the only relevant complaint has been cited, has no application in Scotland and it is not clear whether any complaints at all have been submitted from the Scottish market. More information may be found at www.ft.com/uknews.

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