Spicerhaart lodges formal complaint

The country's largest independent estate agency group, tmx Spicerhaart, has lodged a formal complaint with the Press Complaints Commission over an article in the June edition of Which? Magazine, which it says is inaccurate and misleading.

Which? investigated a number of agents nationally in an undercover operation - including a branch of haart in Streatham and Felicity J. Lord in Hackney, both of which are run by tmx Spicerhaart.

The article made specific allegations that the company used 'unfair contract terms' for its property transactions, claiming that company had used 'sole agency agreements with hidden sole rights selling clauses'.

Tmx Spicerhaart had already changed the terminology in its contracts without any knowledge of the investigation and prior to publication of the report. Additionally, the clause in question was not hidden in any way, since it was highlighted prominently in the contract.

Tmx Spicerhaart's Chief Executive, Paul Smith, said: "The article contains a number of inaccuracies which have damaged our business, forcing us to take legal action against Which? and the Consumers' Association. If they had given us the right of reply before publication and not resorted to subterfuge, they would have realised that our house is entirely in order."

The article also made a number of derogatory statements about estate agency in general, and tmx Spicerhaart would like to point out that these are not in relation to them. Mr Smith added: "We work extremely hard to ensure all of our branches follow the correct procedures and that all staff receive intense training."

The company condemns poor practice in the industry and has repeatedly called for an increase in the level of regulation of estate agency. Chairman Alick Smith is on the board of directors of the Ombudsman's scheme for estate agency and has contributed materially to the development and maintenance of appropriate standards in the industry.