Public confidence in both the property redress schemes looks to be at rock bottom, judging by reviews on TrustPilot.
Although there are only 17 reviews in total for both services, every single one is the lowest possible – one star.
One poster claims to have refused TPO’s offers on two occasions, taking legal advice instead, and winning ten times the sum offered in one case, and in another £2,600 when they had been offered £150.
A common theme is the questioning of their impartiality, with reviewers seeing the schemes as being funded by estate agents and therefore only representing agents.
It is also clear from some of the reviews that there is a job to be done in educating consumers.
For example, one reviewer complained that their agent required ID proof from seller and buyer. On taking this up with TPO, the reviewer was left believing this was not a legal requirement and “once the public give their certified IDs there is no control over what happens to it, ie data fraud or them selling your information on to third parties”.
The reviewer does not seem to have been told about anti-money laundering requirements.
Damning reviews appear to be commonplace across the wider ombudsman sector, with TPO not proving an exception.
There are just 13 reviews for TPO on Trustpilot but each one is highly critical.
The latest one is headed “Total waste of time and effort”.
The reviewer says that TPO took “far too long” to deal with her case.
Another, posted this month, complains that it took five months to deal with a simple complaint.
A third, also posted this month, complains of bias towards estate agents, and another poster questions whether the service is fair and impartial.
The Property Redress Scheme has just four reviews on Trustpilot, but again all are one-star ratings.
The latest, posted last month, says: “I am shocked they are allowed to operate.”
Another says: “Don’t waste your time with them, go legal.”
The Property Redress Scheme also has 22 Google reviews of which ten give one-star ratings, although the same number give five-star ratings.
The problem of very low ratings for ombudsmen/redress schemes is not unique to the property sector.
The 348 Trustpilot reviews for the Financial Ombudsman are largely one-star, as are the 62 for the Legal Ombudsman, and the 418 for Ombudsman Services – which used to run a property redress service.
Katrine Sporle, TPO’s Ombudsman, said: “The purpose of The Property Ombudsman scheme is to provide a dispute resolution service to place the consumer back in the position they were before the complaint arose.
“The very nature of redress is highly emotive, and by the time a complaint reaches TPO consumers are usually extremely aggrieved.
“With that in mind, if after reviewing the evidence provided to us we find that the agent was not at fault and therefore do not support the case, it’s common for TPO to then be perceived as part of the problem and receive negative feedback.
“Where we do award in favour of the consumer, as in 57% of cases in 2018, consumers are unlikely to take the time to write a positive review about the service they’ve received when they have had to go through a long process with their agent just to be put back in the position they started.
“Unfortunately with redress, there is always one side which will be unhappy with the outcome, but I am confident we provide an extremely professional, totally independent and impartial service.
“This view is shared by MHCLG in their response to ‘Strengthening Redress in the Housing Market’ and a position that is monitored and audited by MHCLG, NTSELAT, CTSI and the Ombudsman Association at regular intervals.”
Eddie Hooker, of the Property Redress Scheme, said: ”Redress is all about conflict management.
“Neither we nor TPO are selling a service or product that is exciting and is sought by the consumer.
“There are always two parties to a complaint of which in the vast majority of cases the end decision will only go one way – either we find in support of the agent or we find in favour of the consumer.
“Therefore there generally will always be one party that is unhappy with the result. So I do not expect reviews to be representative of the service that ombudsman/redress organisations provide or to accurately reflect the good work that they do.
“People generally resort to ‘rating’ when they do not get the result that they think they should be getting – but there is always two sides to every story.”
He added: “If you look at the Financial Services Ombudsman Trustpilot page you will see almost 350 reviews of which more than 90% of reviews are one or two stars i.e. poor and bad. I am sure the same would be true of other similar organisations.
“So our score is typical of this industry. I do not consider these ratings sites to be a good basis for basing any possible argument as to the effectiveness of the work that we or the TPO do.”