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Refunds: Ombudsman confirms sellers have up to a year to complain if agent lets them down

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The Property Ombudsman has confirmed that if a complainant accepts a goodwill offer from an agent, then TPO will consider the matter closed.

However, if the complainant does not accept the offer, the complainant has a whole year in which to escalate their complaint to the redress scheme. Online debate had suggested that the time limit is six months, rather than 12.

TPO Katrine Sporle issued the advice after a review of Purplebricks appeared on Trustpilot, which raised the issue of refunds.

The review, which gave Purplebricks a very rare one-star rating, was from ‘Ryan’.

He said the service was very disappointing, and that in 68 days there had been no viewings.

‘Ryan’ complained over an over-valuation and lack of weekly communication, claiming: “Once you have instructed the company they have your money and lose interest.”

He claimed that on instructing a high street agent, four offers were received within 48 hours, and a sale has now been agreed.

His review went on to claim: “The fee to sell with Purplebricks in our area is £1,199. On complaining about their appalling service we were offered a £300 ‘goodwill’ discount. They genuinely believed their property expert and their team have earned their fee by just placing the property online and provide a zero level of service.

“We have since paid the amount to cut all ties with the company and move on, putting it down to an ill-guided mistake.

“Surprisingly, the customer service representative informed me that should I settle the account including their ‘goodwill’ discount if I waive the opportunity to forward and escalate the case to The Property Ombudsman, which is not true.”

The reply to ‘Ryan’ from Purplebricks on Trustpilot also suggested that a complainant has six months to escalate a complaint to TPO if the complainant does not accept a goodwill offer.

The reply says: “We are sorry if there has been any confusion around your right to take your complaint to the Property Ombudsman.

“You are right that you are welcome to seek a verdict from the Ombudsman for up to six months following on from your complaint should you remain dissatisfied with the outcome.

“We will always cooperate fully with any investigation that they undertake and the details of how to submit your complaint to the Ombudsman were provided to you in our final response. The goodwill offer was made in full and final settlement of your complaint, as whilst we would consider that we have fulfilled our obligation to market your property, and have kept in regular contact with you, we are also sympathetic to your situation of now being liable to pay two sets of fees.

“It is absolutely your choice whether or not to accept the offer in full and final settlement of your complaint, however should you do so this would conclude the complaint and the Property Ombudsman would no longer seek to investigate matters on your behalf.”

EYE asked Sporle to comment on the issues raised.

She told us: “Once an agent has fully investigated a complaint, a final viewpoint letter should be issued to the complainant.

“This provides a written statement which clearly expresses the agents’ final view on the complaint raised, and should include any goodwill offers made.

“It should also refer the complainant to TPO if they remain dissatisfied with the agent’s decision/offer, and advise them of the timescale for bringing a complaint to TPO, which is 12 months after receiving a final viewpoint statement.

“The Property Ombudsman will always encourage any opportunity to settle a dispute quickly. An agent may make a goodwill offer in full and final settlement of all complaints raised. If the complainant accepts this in full and final settlement of all complaints, the Ombudsman will consider the matter resolved.

“Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases, if a complainant rejects the goodwill offer and refers the complaint to TPO, the goodwill offer will lapse.

“TPO will review the evidence from both parties and reach a fair and impartial decision, and, if the complaint is supported, make an appropriate award of compensation.

“Sometimes, it may be possible to assist by mediation, helping agents and complainants towards a settlement they can both agree on. If this is not possible the complaint will proceed to a formal review.”

The bad review from ‘Ryan’ is most unusual – almost all Purplebricks’ reviews on Trustpilot are very highly rated.

A spokesperson for Purplebricks told us that refunds are offered only rarely and in the most exceptional circumstances.

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