Why is NTSEAT refusing to answer basic questions as a midnight tonight deadline looms?

I have written about NTSEAT before having worked with them in the past to assist them protect consumers and law-abiding agents from illegal and unlawful practices.

Since the mid-1980s’ I have always worked inside and with the law and, where appropriate, campaigned to improve the laws surrounding property ownership, estate agency and property transfer. That position and ethos has not, nor will ever, change.

Now, however, it seems that the very people who are tasked with upholding the law and enforcing it, are refusing to answer basic questions or uphold basic principles of common law. What follows below is the unedited (except to preserve GDPR) correspondence between myself and NTSEAT.

I believe the correspondence is of vital interest to the industry and invite constructive comments and honest debate.

National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team

Taken from the NTSEAT web page on Powys Council website

REPRODUCED IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, LATEST TO OLDEST

REDACTED WHERE APPROPRIATE

Wed 05/09/2018 16:46

Dear Mr Wood

Our function at present is to ensure compliance with the ASA ruling. The deadline is tomorrow night for compliance.

If you fail to comply with the ruling, we will then commence an investigation under all applicable legislation and will conduct this investigation within the powers and obligations of that legislation. Only the Courts can interpret that legislation and make a decision as to the guilt of a defendant, and a prosecution would only take place if evidence uncovered in an investigation was deemed capable of meeting the required burden of proof.

Kind Regards

REDACTED

REDACTED

Investigator – National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team

REDACTED

Powys County Council | Cyngor Sir Powys, Y Gwalia, Llandrindod, Powys, LD1 6AA

REDACTED@powys.gov.uk|REDACTED@powys.gcsx.gov.uk | @tsestateagency

estate.agency@powys.gov.uk | www.powys.gov.uk/estateagency |www.powys.gov.uk/gwerthwyrtai

   

Croesewir gohebiaeth yn y Gymraeg a’r Saesneg/Correspondence welcomed in Welsh and English

The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team wishes to make it clear that when providing any advice or guidance:

  • Legislation may change over time and the advice given is based on the information available at the time the guidance was produced. It is not necessarily comprehensive and is subject to revision in the light of further information. We accept no legal liability for the information provided.
  • Only the courts can interpret statutory legislation with any authority.
  • This advice is not intended to be a definitive guide to, nor substitute for, the relevant law. Independent legal advice should be sought where appropriate.
  • Sometimes advice or guidance will be linked to external sites over which we have no control and for which we accept no responsibility.
  • We aim to keep any advice or guidance timely and accurate. If any inaccuracies or omissions are brought to our attention we will try to deal with these as quickly as possible.

Dear REDACTED
It is noted that NTSEAT are avoiding answering all of my reasonable questions in this matter including that regarding my amended blog article which the ASA and NTSEAT were made aware of several weeks ago. Please explain why NTSEAT is not acting transparently and does not appear to have a presumption of innocence in my case.

Can NTSEAT confirm that any investigation will comply with normal TSO procedures which are, as I understand it:
1. Presumed innocence with informed discussion to resolve
2. If unresolved; formal discussion under caution.
3. Resolution or potential prosecution considered.
Thank you.
Regards
Chris Wood
Director


On 5 Sep 2018, at 15:08, REDACTED (CSP – Regeneration and Corporate Property) REDACTED@powys.gov.uk> wrote:
Dear Mr Wood

This matter has been referred to us, the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team, by National Trading Standards. This is a referral tasked to this team because Camden are no longer dealing with ASA legal backstop work. This was tasked to us because it is in relation to an estate agency business.

All advertisements are required to meet the standards of British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing. The ASA ruling against you states that the specified advert (blog and tweet) must not appear again in their current form. The ASA have made this ruling based on the evidence provided including that from yourself.

If you do not comply with the ruling by 23.59 on 6 September, we (NTSEAT) will commence an investigation into the alleged offences. Any action taken will be as considered appropriate, and dependant on the evidence available. Therefore I cannot tell you at this time what action would be taken against you should you fail to comply with the ruling.

I trust that clarifies the matter for you.

REDACTED
Investigator – National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team
Powys County Council | Cyngor Sir Powys, Y Gwalia, Llandrindod, Powys, LD1 6AA
REDACTED@powys.gov.uk|REDACTED@powys.gcsx.gov.uk | @tsestateagency
estate.agency@powys.gov.uk | http://www.powys.gov.uk/estateagency |www.powys.gov.uk/gwerthwyrtai
________________________________________

Croesewir gohebiaeth yn y Gymraeg a’r Saesneg/Correspondence welcomed in Welsh and English

The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team wishes to make it clear that when providing any advice or guidance:
• Legislation may change over time and the advice given is based on the information available at the time the guidance was produced. It is not necessarily comprehensive and is subject to revision in the light of further information. We accept no legal liability for the information provided.
• Only the courts can interpret statutory legislation with any authority.
• This advice is not intended to be a definitive guide to, nor substitute for, the relevant law. Independent legal advice should be sought where appropriate.
• Sometimes advice or guidance will be linked to external sites over which we have no control and for which we accept no responsibility.
• We aim to keep any advice or guidance timely and accurate. If any inaccuracies or omissions are brought to our attention we will try to deal with these as quickly as possible.


From: Chris Wood <chris.wood@pdq-property.co.uk>
Sent: 05 September 2018 14:42
To: REDACTED (CSP – Regeneration and Corporate Property) <REDACTED@powys.gov.uk>
Cc: REDACTED <REDACTED@.com>
Subject: RE: National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team
Importance: High

Dear REDACTED
I have replied in line below. A response by return is required as time is of the essence.
Thank you.

Chris Wood CertREA CPEA
Director
PDQ Estates Ltd – “…The best small estate agents in the UK” The Telegraph
Office 01736 339143 / 01326 561561
Mobile REDACTED

Who are you employing as an estate agent and what skills do they have?
Always ask to see their CV before signing any contract – Here’s mine

From: REDACTED (CSP – Regeneration and Corporate Property) <REDACTED@powys.gov.uk>
Sent: 05 September 2018 13:50
To: Chris Wood <chris.wood@pdq-property.co.uk>
Subject: RE: National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team

Dear Mr Wood

In response to your questions,

Why the NTSEAT has taken it upon itself to go outside of its own remit?

This matter has been referred to us by NTS.
[Chris Wood] REDACTED, your title (Investigator – National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team) suggests that you work for NTSEAT which indicates that NTSEAT has self-referred this case to itself and is still outside of its own remit. Can you clarify please?

On what specific grounds does NTSEAT believe I have transgressed the 1979 Estate Agents Act and on what remit is NTSEAT acting?

This is in relation to the ruling made by ASA and referral from NTS.
[Chris Wood] Respectfully, this does not answer the question. The NTSEAT team has a clear mandate to only deal with matters pertaining to the 1979 Estate Agents Act. This matter does not apply to that act and is, therefore, not within NTSEATs remit to act upon.

NTSEAT to explain which ‘triggers’ on its own referral page, are applicable, in its’ opinion in this case http://www.powys.gov.uk/en/licensing-trading-standards/national-trading-standards-estate-agency-team/referrals-from-trading-standards-or-police/

Currently we are requesting that you comply with the ASA ruling. We are not at present investigating your fitness to practice. Should you fail to comply with this ruling, we will commence an investigation into any alleged offences or “triggers” and will communicate with you as appropriate.
[Chris Wood] This, again, avoids answering the question posed. You have asked me to comply with a ruling from a body with no statutory powers. To do so, would be an admission of guilt. I am happy to comply with an investigation by my local trading standards or Croydon Trading Standards or, if need be, Powys Trading Standards however, I cannot do so if I am not formally informed what specific law/ laws I am alleged to have transgressed.

Why has NTSEAT, with no consultation or investigation, taken the word of a non-statutory, unregulated, self-appointed body (a quasi’ consumer) against a law-abiding business making fair comment in the public interest?

Your blog and tweet have been found not to be in accordance with the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing.
[Chris Wood] I ask again, who, specifically, found this to be the case? Is this NTSEAT taking the word of a non-statutory body at face value or, have NTSEAT investigated and found this to be the case? If the latter, why was I not consulted with on the matter as part of a process prior to a ruling by NTSEAT who, again, have no jurisdiction under their published mandate.

Why has NTSEAT seemingly ignored its own enforcement policy and that of the Government Regulators code (attached)?

This matter has been referred to us by NTS.
[Chris Wood] See above. Who is ‘us’ and why was this not referred to the local TSO in Cornwall as prescribed in good normal practice?

Has NTSEAT asked the ASA why this was not passed direct to Croydon TSO (as set out in the ASAs’ own Standard Operational Procedures) who would normally pass this on to the Trading Standards team local to the business involved (Cornwall Trading Standards in this case)? This is the correct, established and published process.

This matter has been referred to us by NTS. It is for NTS to decide the appropriate referral process.
[Chris Wood] Again, who is ‘us’ and can you reference me where in the NTSEAT/ Powys and governmental guidance notes NTSEAT has this mandate?

We reiterate the requirement for your compliance with the ASA ruling by 23.59 on 6 September 2018.
[Chris Wood] You have made no comment on the post ruling amendment to the site I made some weeks ago as to whether the amendment gives sufficient clarity to the original piece. What will be the next stage/ form of action if I were to refuse to comply with the ruling of the non-statutory body which appears not to have been formally investigated by Trading Standards Officers?

Kind Regards
REDACTED


REDACTED
Investigator – National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team
REDACTED
Powys County Council | Cyngor Sir Powys, Y Gwalia, Llandrindod, Powys, LD1 6AA
REDACTED@powys.gov.uk|REDACTED@powys.gcsx.gov.uk | @tsestateagency
estate.agency@powys.gov.uk | http://www.powys.gov.uk/estateagency |www.powys.gov.uk/gwerthwyrtai
________________________________________

Croesewir gohebiaeth yn y Gymraeg a’r Saesneg/Correspondence welcomed in Welsh and English

The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team wishes to make it clear that when providing any advice or guidance:
• Legislation may change over time and the advice given is based on the information available at the time the guidance was produced. It is not necessarily comprehensive and is subject to revision in the light of further information. We accept no legal liability for the information provided.
• Only the courts can interpret statutory legislation with any authority.
• This advice is not intended to be a definitive guide to, nor substitute for, the relevant law. Independent legal advice should be sought where appropriate.
• Sometimes advice or guidance will be linked to external sites over which we have no control and for which we accept no responsibility.
• We aim to keep any advice or guidance timely and accurate. If any inaccuracies or omissions are brought to our attention we will try to deal with these as quickly as possible.


From: Chris Wood <chris.wood@pdq-property.co.uk>
Sent: 31 August 2018 17:00
To: REDACTED(CSP – Regeneration and Corporate Property) <REDACTED@powys.gov.uk>
Cc: REDACTED@cap.org.uk>; REDACTED@cornwall.gov.uk>; REDACTED@gmail.com>; REDACTED@powys.gov.uk; REDACTED.mp@parliament.uk>; REDACTED@hotmail.com>
Subject: RE: National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team

Dear REDACTED
I remain happy to comply with any proper and legitimate investigation/ process and outcome and would be grateful if you could answer the reasonable questions I posed in my last email.
Thank you.
Regards

Chris Wood CertREA CPEA
Director
PDQ Estates Ltd – “…The best small estate agents in the UK” The Telegraph
Office 01736 339143 / 01326 561561
Mobile 07771607121

Who are you employing as an estate agent and what skills do they have?
Always ask to see their CV before signing any contract – Here’s mine

From: REDACTED (CSP – Regeneration and Corporate Property) <REDACTED@powys.gov.uk>
Sent: 31 August 2018 16:46
To: Chris Wood <chris.wood@pdq-property.co.uk>
Subject: RE: National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team

Dear Mr Wood

I will continue to correspond with you by email only, until you inform me otherwise.

National Trading Standards have referred this investigation to our team as it is within our remit.

We have considered the case information as provided by ASA and would re-iterate our requirement that you comply with the ruling by 23.59 on 6 September. Failure to do so will result in enforcement action under The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008.

Advertisements which are not in accordance with the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing, and inclusion of material produced by a third party without their authorisation are not in accordance with The Property Ombudsman’s Codes of Practice for Residential Estate Agents and should you fail to comply with the ASA ruling by 6 September we will also refer this matter to TPOS for their consideration.

Kind Regards
REDACTED


From: Chris Wood [mailto:chris.wood@pdq-property.co.uk]
Sent: 25 August 2018 11:51
To: REDACTED (CSP – Regeneration and Corporate Property) <REDACTED@powys.gov.uk>
Cc: REDACTED@cap.org.uk>; REDACTED@cornwall.gov.uk>; REDACTED@gmail.com>; REDACTED@powys.gov.uk; REDACTED.mp@parliament.uk>; REDACTED@hotmail.com>
Subject: RE: National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team

Dear REDACTED
Thank you for your letter (attached), the contents of which I note. Please reply using email and not post as I am moving between homes at present and some post appears to be going astray.

I have never knowingly nor have any intention of misleading the public in any way and will happily comply with any proper and legitimate investigation/ process and outcome. That said, I do not believe I have mislead the public in this instance and take exception to a non-statutory, non-governmental body (the ASA) publishing what I believe to be defamatory statements about my personal integrity and business and, for the NTSEAT to agree with this situation with no apparent investigation and, insist I comply with that decision (letter attached) despite no formal interview or due process. This is shameful and, possibly, unlawful behaviour by Powys Council who I believe have made this a personal matter.

As per previous correspondence and conversations with the ASA and NTSEAT I would ask that NTSEAT please explain its actions in this matter. Namely:

Why the NTSEAT has taken it upon itself to go outside of its own remit? “The National Trading Standards Team does not mediate or arbitrate in individual complaints between estate agents and consumers (or) award civil redress to aggrieved parties. (Nor does it) “conduct ‘routine’ investigations outside of its remit in issuing prohibition or warning orders under the Estate Agency Act 1979”.
On what specific grounds does NTSEAT believe I have transgressed the 1979 Estate Agents Act and on what remit is NTSEAT acting?
NTSEAT to explain which ‘triggers’ on its own referral page, are applicable, in its’ opinion in this case http://www.powys.gov.uk/en/licensing-trading-standards/national-trading-standards-estate-agency-team/referrals-from-trading-standards-or-police/
Why has NTSEAT, with no consultation or investigation, taken the word of a non-statutory, unregulated, self-appointed body (a quasi’ consumer) against a law-abiding business making fair comment in the public interest?
Why has NTSEAT seemingly ignored its own enforcement policy and that of the Government Regulators code (attached)?
Has NTSEAT asked the ASA why this was not passed direct to Croydon TSO (as set out in the ASAs’ own Standard Operational Procedures) who would normally pass this on to the Trading Standards team local to the business involved (Cornwall Trading Standards in this case)? This is the correct, established and published process.
Taken from the NTSEAT website:
The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team is responsible for:
issuing individual banning or warning orders under the Act (1979 Estate Agents Act)
maintaining a public register of such banning or warning orders
approving and monitoring consumer redress scheme
providing generic advice and guidance on estate agency matters, in conjunction with Citizen’s Advice, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and other partner agencies
What we don’t do:
The National Trading Standards Team does not:
mediate or arbitrate in individual complaints between estate agents and consumers.
award civil redress to aggrieved parties.
conduct ‘routine’ investigations outside of its remit in issuing prohibition or warning orders under the Estate Agency Act 1979
I await a response by return. Time, as NTSEAT have made clear, is of the essence.
Regards
Chris Wood
Director
PDQ Estates Ltd
Penzance (01736) 339143 – Option 1
Helston (01326) 561561 – Option 1
Mobile – REDACTED
chris.wood@pdq-property.co.uk

Britain’s best small estate agents
The top 20 small estate agents in Britain who go above and beyond to help their customers – The Telegraph

When you employ an estate agent to advise you on the marketing of your most expensive asset, your family home and, to negotiate the best selling price for you, make sure you ask to see their CV. Here’s mine


From: REDACTED(CSP – Regeneration and Corporate Property) <REDACTED@powys.gov.uk>
Sent: 23 August 2018 13:28
To: Chris Wood <chris.wood@pdq-property.co.uk>
Cc: JREDACTED@cap.org.uk>
Subject: National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team

Dear Mr Wood

It has come to my attention that you sent an email to James Tebbett stating that you have not been contacted regarding the referral to NTSEAT. Please find attached a letter posted on 16 August requiring you to comply with the ASA ruling within 14 days of the date of the letter. Since you claim not to have received any correspondence I am willing to commence the 14 days from today and would expect your full compliance by 23.59 on 6 September 2018.

Kind Regards

REDACTED

REDACTED
Investigator – National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team
REDACTED
Powys County Council | Cyngor Sir Powys, Y Gwalia, Llandrindod, Powys, LD1 6AA
REDACTED@powys.gov.uk|REDACTED@ntseat.cjsm.net | @tsestateagency
estate.agency@powys.gov.uk | http://www.powys.gov.uk/estateagency |www.powys.gov.uk/gwerthwyrtai
________________________________________

Croesewir gohebiaeth yn y Gymraeg a’r Saesneg/Correspondence welcomed in Welsh and English

The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team wishes to make it clear that when providing any advice or guidance:
• Legislation may change over time and the advice given is based on the information available at the time the guidance was produced. It is not necessarily comprehensive and is subject to revision in the light of further information. We accept no legal liability for the information provided.
• Only the courts can interpret statutory legislation with any authority.
• This advice is not intended to be a definitive guide to, nor substitute for, the relevant law. Independent legal advice should be sought where appropriate.
• Sometimes advice or guidance will be linked to external sites over which we have no control and for which we accept no responsibility.
• We aim to keep any advice or guidance timely and accurate. If any inaccuracies or omissions are brought to our attention we will try to deal with these as quickly as possible.

________________________________________
Mae’r e bost hwn ac unrhyw atodiad iddo yn gyfrinachol ac fe’i bwriedir ar gyfer y sawl a enwir arno yn unig. Gall gynnwys gwybodaeth freintiedig. Os yw wedi eich cyrraedd trwy gamgymeriad ni ellwch ei gopio, ei ddosbarthu na’i ddangos i unrhyw un arall a dylech gysylltu gyda Cyngor Sir Powys ar unwaith. Mae unrhyw gynnwys nad yw’n ymwneud gyda busnes swyddogol Cyngor Sir Powys yn bersonol i’r awdur ac nid yw’n awdurdodedig gan y Cyngor.
This e mail and any attachments are confidential and intended for the named recipient only. The content may contain privileged information. If it has reached you by mistake, you should not copy, distribute or show the content to anyone but should contact Powys County Council at once. Any content that is not pertinent to Powys County Council business is personal to the author, and is not necessarily the view of the Council.
________________________________________

PUBLISHED CORRESPONDENCE ENDS

NTSEAT Terms of reference

Rules and requirements for a referral to NTSEAT

 

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