Frivolous complaints made to CEA

The housing deal was almost completed when a misunderstanding arose. The buyer wanted to fix an appointment with the HDB so that he could move in soon as possible.

But the seller was not ready to move out yet. When told of this by the agent, the unhappy buyer emailed a complaint to the Council of Estate Agents (CEA).

The agent, who only wanted to be identified as Mr Tan, told MediaCorp: “I felt abused mentally by the buyer’s accusations … I felt disheartened. My integrity was at stake.”

However, after investigations, the CEA did not find Mr Tan at fault and did not take any action against him. But the incident, which happened last December, has scarred him, said Mr Tan, 44.

“We are like scum bags to some customers. But we are all professionals,” he said.

Some estate agencies told MediaCorp that since the watchdog was set up last November, they have seen frivolous complaints being made against their agents to CEA.

Associate director of ERA Singapore, Mr Eugene Lim, said: “They threaten the agents: If you don’t serve us properly, we’ll complain.”

When a complaint is filed against one of their agents, property firms have to carry out an internal investigation and submit a report to the CEA.

“If it is found to be frivolous, then we’ll state our stand and CEA will convey this to the customer. Once customers realise they are getting nowhere, they will stop,” said Mr Lim who noted that some customers filed complaints to try and get away with paying a lower commission.

Around 70 per cent of the complaints he has seen have been frivolous. “It doesn’t cost the public anything to complain,” said Mr Lim. The CEA, he felt, tend to entertain any kind of complaint.

PropNex CEO Mohamed Ismail said: “Complaints are being made because of the lack of education about the role of the CEA, the role of agents and the rights of consumers.”

The CEA, when asked how it protects the rights of estate agents, said that it investigates each complaint before concluding if a case warrants further action.

The complainant is also required to provide personal details and documents of the property deal when filing a complaint.

If the complainant chooses to be anonymous, the CEA is likely to treat the information as feedback, not as a complaint.

Examples of arguments which could be resolved amicably with the complainant include late response to the client’s phone calls or SMSes and miscommunications about the appointment date and time, added a spokesperson.

Source : Today – 24 Jan 2011

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