‘This is disdain and it spells double standards’
MAIN IMAGE: Stephen Logan, CEO of PrivySeal; Jan le Roux, CE of Rebosa.
In a surprising about-turn the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) issued a statement this week advising industry that their contract for a digital verification system with PrivySeal was not to be renewed – a move that Jan le Roux, CE of industry body Rebosa condemned as having double standards and showing disdain for the industry.
What happened before
On 31 August the external service provider PrivySeal informed agents that their seals would no longer display to show consumers that they are registered as estate agents with the EAAB.
PrivySeal informed agents that their contract with the EAAB is suspended on 31 August 2019.
The EAAB introduced the PrivySeal system in 2016 and has since then paid PrivySeal for all registered estate agents and registered estate agencies to be provided with digital Privyseals and certificates, as evidence that they are compliant with EAAB requirements.
It has since come to light that:
- This contract expired on 13 March this year and that PrivySeal had engaged with the EAAB about the renewal of the contract for months before it was due to expire.
- Also, that EAAB officials had communicated to Stephen Logan, CEO of PrivySeal, that the EAAB EXCO had formally approved the renewal of the contract in March, without any conditions.
- In the following months Logan says they repeatedly wrote to the CEO and EXCO of the EAAB to renew the service level agreement. “We would not have continued to provide our service without payment for over five months had the EAAB not repeatedly informed us that the contract had been renewed,” he adds.
- Finally, that PrivySeal gave the EAAB written notice that their services would be terminated unless a monthly service agreement was entered into and outstanding fees paid by 31 August.
On 3 September the EAAB issued a statement informing agents that they will not be renewing their contract with PrivySeal, but that they are initialising a process of open procurement. Mention is made that an inappropriate process was followed with the PrivySeal contract.
On 3 September the EAAB informed agents that the PrivySeal contract will not be renewed.
In reaction to the latter, Logan, says there was no tender process when PrivySeal was first appointed as service provider as they are the sole provider and patent holder for the digital verification system. “We hold a registered patent and are the sole provider but we will respond to any tender request,” ends Logan.
Over 21,200 agents have adhered to the instruction from the EAAB and the Multi Stakeholder Group to make use of their Privyseals in their emails, websites, property portals and other media to evidence their registration and ongoing compliance.
The EAAB ends their statement by reminding estate agents that their annually renewable Fidelity Fund Certificate remains the most important tool to verify whether an agent is practicing legally. Consumers are urged to ask for this certificate and told they can verify the status of an agent on the website of the EAAB.
Statement by Rebosa
Jan le Roux, CE of Rebosa, issued the following statement with stringent criticism on the way the PrivySeal matter was being handled by the EAAB:
This is nothing less than disrespect for the industry. PrivySeal had already announced termination of the service over the weekend and it begs the question why the EAAB could not have made this announcement to industry in good time instead of handling it in this reactive unprofessional manner.
Reference is made of a procurement process that wasn’t followed before and which will now have to be followed – no argument with that. What would have been better, though, would’ve been to institute a procurement process before the current agreement lapsed. That could’ve resulted in a smooth transition especially since it is at least possible in theory that the same company may have been awarded the contract yet again. At the very least it would have removed the element of surprise and shock.
One has to keep in mind that it was the EAAB that forced this on industry years ago only to allow it to lapse without notice. At the time the EAAB also promised to promote the concept to the consumers, so as to make it effective. Needless to say this never happened. Nor is any mention made in the EAAB release of such a campaign. Even if the contact is awarded again to whoever, it will be a failure without it being marketed.
More importantly, everyone is advised that consumers can check the status of estate agents on the EAAB portal (to which one should add “when it works”) but fails to mention how consumers are supposed to know about this as this too has not been marketed. Nor is there any acknowledgement of the fact that such a search would only be successful if the consumer happens to know the full names, and I mean ALL the names, of the agent in question and getting the spelling 100% correct, failing which no results will be forthcoming and the agent will appear not to be registered. The search facility is totally inadequate and the EAAB is well aware of this fact and even promised to have same addressed.
We often experience that serious issues are purported to be addressed by superficial and inadequate measures. It makes no sense to create the impression of consumer protection whilst knowing full well that it does not work.
I call it disrespect because a consultative body that represents the entire industry, The Multi Stakeholder Group (MSG) was created five years ago at the insistence of Rebosa. This body met in June of this year during which meeting no mention was made of PrivySeal. The only possible deductions are that either the EAAB did not want to consult/advise the MSG (which would refute the object thereof) or that the EAAB was caught by surprise by the turn of events and therefore only now wants to start a procurement process. Both alternatives are ominous.
I refer to double standards because the utmost professionalism is required of the estate agents by the EAAB. Yet, the EAAB fails to meet the same standard.
Rebosa had requested prior to these events that a meeting of the MSG be called and has earlier this week added PrivySeal to the agenda. We will proceed with our best efforts to engage with the EAAB for the betterment of the industry.
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