Property Professionals – Open letter to Barclays Partner Finance

To the Directors and Shareholders of Barclays PLC and HSBC Holdings PLC

In the Matter of Property Professionals + Ltd (in administration)

This letter is addressed to Barclays PLC in its capacity as the owners of Barclays Partner Finance, a company which had a trading arrangement with Property Professionals + Ltd (PP+) by which finance packages were sold to candidates for training at the four centres operated by PP+.

This letter is addressed to HSBC Holdings PLC in its capacity as owner of HSBC UK which had a merchant “supplier” agreement with PP+ by which the company could take payment from candidates who wished to pay by credit card or debit card.

The letter is copied to Mr Shane Biddlecombe of HJS Recovery, an insolvency practitioner charged with the Administration of PP+, the company having gone into administration on 3 February 2010.

The letter is an open letter and copies will be sent to other interested parties, regulatory bodies and the media.

The writer is Honorary Secretary of the Institute of Home Inspection which has been contacted by many of the former trainees of PP+. He also attended an assessment and interview at Home Inspector Training, Bristol, before deciding to train as an energy assessor with ECMK in 2007.

PP+ (previously Home Inspector Training) is a training company set up to provide training to candidates who wished to qualify as Home Inspectors (DipHI) and Energy Assessors (DipDEA/DipNDEA). The company set up four training centres at Tolworth (SW London), Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester. It advertised widely both in the national and regional press, far more than any other training company in this field, and recruited many thousands of trainees. Evidence from the Awarding Body for the Built Environment (ABBE), responsible for these diplomas, shows that completion rates for candidates at PP+ were very low indeed, contrary to the normal expectations for such vocational courses.

At the time of the company going into administration, there were approximately 2,400 trainees who had not completed their training. Most of these had paid for training by way of either a finance agreement promoted strongly by PP+ or by credit card. They are now making claims under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 which makes the provider of finance jointly liable for supply of the service paid for. These claims concern breach of contract – training has not been offered on the due dates since the company went into administration – and misrepresentation. Given the low completion rates, it is entirely possible that many more trainees may have a claim against your banks, perhaps as many as 8,000.

In the matter of breach of contract, arrangements have been made with Stroma Accreditation to provide replacement training. However, there are grave doubts as to whether this training can be considered to be comparable and to meet fully with the terms of the contract signed by trainees with PP+. Furthermore, it must be questioned whether the breach can be remedied at such a late date. Already there has been an interruption of more than 4 months in the training programme and this seems set to increase further. Only two weeks ago, it emerged that Stroma were only in contact with 1,000 of the 2,400 trainees. At this rate, it will take many more months to organise replacement training. Does this not render the banks potentially liable to compensate this breach of contract in respect of loss of earnings as well as of the service itself? It seems to me that the banks have every interest in resolving this matter more expeditiously than they have so far shown any willingness to do.

Similar cases have arisen in respect of other training companies (driving instructors, IT) that have failed. In almost all cases, the Financial Ombudsman has ruled in favour of the customer and it is hard to see why the banks wish to incur the considerable administrative costs of defending thousands of such actions when these are clearly going to be found for the trainees.

If breach of contract might possibly be mitigated by the replacement training offered through Stroma, that does not constitute any defence against misrepresentation. There is already ample evidence of PP+ having been guilty of misrepresentation and I have no doubt that further evidence will emerge as investigations by the Administrator and by The Insolvency Service continue. I can not enlarge upon investigations as this might prejudice future legal action. Misrepresentation was present: in PP+ advertising; in the way which it assessed candidates before admission; in claims made during interview; in claims made during telephone sales calls; and during the training period.

Advertisements made extravagant claims about the annual earnings that qualified home inspectors and energy assessors might expect. These claims were the subject of complaints made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and agreement was reached with PP+ that these claims would no longer be made. Some of the trainees who are currently claiming under s75 will have been recruited to PP+ before this amendment to the advertisement was made.

Advertisements made claims that the training centres were “government-backed”. This was entirely untrue. Such training is entirely unregulated by Government nor is it supported by Government in any way. Complaints to the ASA and to Dept of Communities and Local Government led to this claim also being dropped from advertisements but many of the current trainees will have been recruited on the basis of this false claim.

Subsequent advertisements implied Government approbation by stating that ABBE is Government- backed. Although ABBE answers, to some limited extent, to Ofqual (formerly QCA), a Government Agency, the claim that ABBE is Government-backed is also false. ABBE is an independent body wholly owned by the Birmingham City University.

Advertisements also claimed that subsidies were available to trainees. This claim was also totally false but I will address it later under the claims made during interview.

Advertisements claimed that there was a shortage of Home Inspectors and Energy Assessors. The Government’s legislative impact assessment clearly sets out the numbers of each that might be required to fulfil the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2002 (EPBD)and the Home Information Pack (HIP). These numbers had already been exceeded (by late 2007 in the case of Domestic Energy Assessors, by mid 2008 in the case of Non-Domestic Energy Assessors) when most of these advertisements appeared. Numbers qualified were well-known and would certainly have been known by PP+. Other training centres were open and honest with candidates about the saturated market and were only training, by this time, trainees who had specific work opportunities e.g. Housing Association staff, estate agents. Others had closed down their training operations. There has been no specific requirement for Home Inspectors since the Government made the Home Condition Report (HCR) an optional rather than a mandatory component of the HIP. I shall return to that below.

Advertisements also claimed that training could be fitted around existing work commitments. This would be extremely hard to do. Seven modules (each of one week’s duration) had to be studied full-time at the centres in addition to a lot of home study. It is difficult to see how most trainees could achieve this within one year as they were required to do to meet the terms of the HHH “subsidy” agreement, to avoid supplementary course fees, and to earn money from which to repay loans.

As the number of potential trainees started to decline, PP+ issued new advertisements. These invited candidates to train to become “5-star Property Professionals” including courses in Fire Risk Assessment and Flood Risk Assessment. But courses were not available at that time and indeed there is no recognised qualification yet in respect of Flood Risk Assessment that trainees could have achieved via PP+. ABBE do not expect to launch this qualification until 2011.

It is a national requirement that candidates for vocational training should be assessed for suitability: i.e. that they will be able to complete the course and enter the occupation concerned. The ABBE guidance to assessment centres (available on the ABBE website) states:

“Centres should ensure that they recruit candidates to the DipHI qualification with integrity. Centres must assess each applicant’s potential and make a professional judgment about their ability to successfully complete the programme of study, where applicable, and achieve the qualification”.

This requirement was very openly flouted by PP+. The so-called assessment consisted of a multiple choice examination of twenty questions, almost none of which bore any relevance to the qualification and which were approximately at the level of a SATS test for 11 year old children. To put this in context, DipHI is a Level 4 qualification, i.e. equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree. Many trainees were misled: By gaining good marks (allegedly) in the “assessment”, they believed that they were suitable candidates for training. But in fact they did not have the necessary academic skills or background (e.g. IT literacy) to have any chance of success. This is reflected in the lamentable completion rates at PP+ centres, far below that of other centres.

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46 Responses to “Property Professionals – Open letter to Barclays Partner Finance”

  1. There’s a lot to digest here, and much of it makes for grim reading. Good luck to all those who are claiming or intend to!

  2. Actually read through your post it is pretty helpful for those involved and i shall without a doubt be keeping an eye on updates, thanks

  3. […] Property Professionals – Open letter to Barclays Partner Finance This letter is addressed to Barclays PLC in its capacity as the owners of Barclays Partner Finance, a company which had a trading arrangement with Property Professionals + Ltd (PP+) by which finance … Filed under: Other Sources Leave a comment Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) ( subscribe to comments on this post ) […]

  4. Well done to Joseph Pestell. We have all these organisations apparently representing our interests but when push comes to shove it is one individual who acts.

    Where are AHIPP when HIPs go, they shout and scream prior and then button their lip afterwards and head into the shadows.

    Then IDEA, who are meant to represent assessors, not one word is heard from them.

    Then OEA who are meant to be largest DEA organisation, though no-one ive ever met has heard of them, cant even issue a release on their site.

    I could go on with more organisations set up to directly profit from the people they represent’s misery but i wont.

  5. stephen Ringham Says:

    Read contents of open letter to barclays partner finance by joseph pestel which is a very accurate summation of the goings on at pp+. I was a trainee with PP and left high and dry when they went out of business paying £8000 for the privalege. I didnt use the barclays package but paid by mastercard. Still no sign of getting any compensation. Stroma currently assisting with commercial portfolio assessment which i had to pay for again. Has taken over 18mths to get here with no income from this farce in sight.

  6. patrick cifton Says:

    i was told by property profesionals that i would have work half way through my course with there so called sister company hiphip harry . i found out the day after sighlng credit agreement there was no work as the market was flooded so i had no chance of paying credit i have been telling clyds dayl or barclays finance wot ever name the yous today that i was mislead and missold but all thay think about is money thay loand irrisponsably . mislead and missold

  7. Keith Walker Says:

    Yes, I am another one of those unfortunate people who were completely taken in at the interview stage for HI training. I should have realised when myself and another person were interviewed together. It was so embarrassing and unprofessional. I feel so sorry for all those genuine people, not only the candidates themselves, but the staff and tutors working for property professionals ,(what a contradiction in terms), who lost their jobs. This industry has been totally oversold/overstated. I am in the process myself of attempting to claim monies paid to property professional under section 75 of the consumers credit act. The level of negative opinion is substancial and universal. I would advise anyone wishing to make a change of career not to enter into this industry. All these companies want is your hard earned cash. You have been warned

  8. My Husband took out finance agreement with barclays to pay PP and we stopped paying the installments in March when we discovered the company had gone into administration. I haven’t heard from barclays since I phoned in march and I do not intend to pay them anymore money. A majority of the points in the letter apply to my husband, he was unable to complete the course within a year due to work commitments and property professionals claiming courses were fully booked! I hope that all that are claiming compensation receive it.

  9. Has anyone heard any more of this fiasco. My husband never got to finish his course. What are others doing that have taken out agreements with barclays, beyond the banks is there anything else that can be done. Who do you go to next, it is a disgrace.

  10. you should get in touch with financial ombudsman they will help we have all been mislead and missold your right it is a disgrace

  11. I paid in cash for the course…is there any chance of recompensation?

  12. keep trying dont let them get away with this

  13. Hi get in touch with the financial ombudsman just say as it is
    Barclays moved from the Glasgow office they closed it down and moved to cardiff

  14. has there been any news about getting money back off these people

  15. Hi Pat,

    We are not aware of any major new developments. As soon as we hear any changes or progress we will update here. Of course if any knows different we would appreciate if you could do similar.

  16. yes i will iam expecting news any time now from the ombudsman my complaint as been going on for 12 months

  17. I hope the news is positive, good luck.

  18. his there any news does anybody now i have not heard from onbudsman as yet

  19. hi good news the first case against bpf has been won the financial ombudsman decidedin his favour .he was awarded full refund plus cost and interest.his claim was thatthere was significant differences between what he bought and what stroma offered.
    pp offered 4 x5days training stroma was3 days so the same amount of info and depth could not be covered
    the qualification from pp was abbe stroma was gity and guilds
    pp offered work through hiphip horray stroma offers nothing
    the finding was that barclays proposal was not fair or reasonable

  20. David Little Says:

    I’ve got two letters from Brian Wall Contracts Manager, I had a family bereavement which was impacting on my ability to finish the course. I thought I would be able to discuss the problem with somebody but I was told I needed to put it in writing. The reply from Brian Wall did not address my letter so I had to explain the situation to one of the clerks at Bristol who I do not think were capable of dealing with the situation. I was extremely upset at the time and the clerk had to go away and check with her boss. Although she apologised the conclusion was that I had been sent the wrong letter and I later received another letter which was more appropriate to the circumstances and which drew my attention to Term 6 and the need to pay an additional fee if I did not complete in the timescales. Very Unprofessional.

  21. Wow, awesome blog layout!. The overall look of your site is excellent, let alone the content!

  22. The situation with PP has left us ruined . Whats the best way of making a claim I paid these people with a cheque. Any help?

  23. Thank goodness i found this site – i was about to pay off a loan i have with Barclays Partner Finance for home inspector training with HiT and put it down to experience. I never qualified due to the administration and as for taking up the offer of Stroma training – why bother, the qualification was redundant by then! I didn’t qualify within 1 year but mainly due to HiT being awkward about booking courses and slow with the work. Feel like the whole thing was just a scam – there were a lot of false promises made during the sales pitch – misselling for sure….
    Going to have a go at claiming against bpf under section 27. Has anyone else had any luck doing this??

  24. i myself have had the unplesent dealings both with pp and barclays, we can’t get our money back as indeviduals but if we come together then they have to listen some one needs to take charge and represent all of us.

  25. I am in exactly the same situation as Becky. I am in communication with the Financial Ombudsman Service Adjudicator Sophia Smith, (email removed), who is claiming against Clydesdale Financial Services (t/a Barclays Partner Finance) as we speak. If anyone is in a position to represent our plight it is Sophia. I am aware that Sophia may not thank me for releasing her email in such a way, but I do feel strongly that the more information she has to hand the greater should be her success. As Joseph says in his Open Letter, the number of people who are suffering financial hardship caused by the deception by PP+ must be in the thousands.

  26. Hi Charles,

    We have had to remove Sophia’s email address if she has not consented to allowing to be made public.

    Possibly you could post your email address here and people could contact you to request the email?

  27. does any body know if there is any way out of this rediculas loan and huge iterest rates it’s an absolute joke i can’t belive so many people have been affected by this and so little has been done about it any info would be great you can email me at vdubpower@live.co.uk thanks

  28. Hi any one had any luck with Financial ombudsman or barclays been almost a year now ? what has happend to property professionals have they been taken to court ? nothing in the news papers have they got away with this scam ? my email address is bikia5@yahoo.co.uk

  29. The Financial Ombudsman Service is still working on my behalf. For more on how they can help you and your complaint then you’ll need to visit, http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk. They’re also very good if you phone them directly on, 0845 080 1800.

  30. Hi it is good to see some comments over the last month.I have my complaint in with the Financial Ombudsman, I have no idea if it will provide a positive outcome. This open letter gave me the inspiration to compile my submission which amounts to a hefty bundle. I believe that the ombudsman have “scores” of complaints pending.
    I have been very disappointed with the entire surveyor and assessor sector ( RICS,BRE NHES,SAVA,STROMA etc etc )who have clammed up. Only yesterday I was quoted £1100 to have my HI portfolio ( 10 reports) assessed electronically,when I asked could I downgrade to a DEA,the answer was yes on payment of a £500 plus examination fee and a £500 portfolio assessment.
    More expenses to pay out just to attempt to get back to a dignified position, all this without taking into account that I was one of the trainees that enrolled on the “phantom” Commercial Energy and Fire And Flood Risk Modules that were underwritten by Barclays without ever being developed, as confirmed in writing by Stroma.

  31. I have just read over beckys post of January 28th and I encourage her to submit to the Ombudsman as soon as possible.The suggestion that HIT / PP used tactics to stall qualification are consistent to evidence provided here and elsewhere.

    In my case I was able to show that it took me 105 days to get to Module 6 by completing a module at least every 3 weeks( often difficult as RdSAP training day effectively ruled out the week before and after this day, because HIT deliberately avoided scheduling modules)I had to wait 10 weeks to sit the ABBE exam (due to clever use of the postponement of training and scheduling over the Christmas period)despite this I had built up a cushion of 4-5 months to take modules 7 and 8, but for various reasons these were never ever developed.( I only found this out in June 2010 thanks to a slip up from Stroma)Amongst the excuses given to me for no module 7 were:- not enough people at my level to proceed,expected to be put on the schedule of modules in the next few weeks, phone back in a couple of weeks and even a suggestion that they had previously run the module at Bristol and London where they were concentrating resources because of demand for commercial assessors being greater in the South.Unfortunately, it has become clear that despite having the backing of ABBE/NHES and crucially Barclays Partner Finance, HIT / PP were not concerned with trainee qualification relying on the timing out of trainees( which occurred due to reasons beyond their control), it is only since their administration have the full extent of affairs started to emerge.

  32. Over these stressful months I been writing letters to Barclays Partner Finance explaining all the points plus more trying to get something back, only to receive a letter a couple of weeks later saying that I have been provided with a alternative training provider and continue with the payments.
    The last letter I sent I had no reply apart from a call yesterday from a dept management company that are working on behalf of Barclays asking for £1500ish.
    Can anyone help?

  33. Hi Chris,

    If you believe you have a grievance, Barclays or any subsidiary will not attempt to help you and are relying on the actions that you outline to suggest that they have helped you.

    The debt co is probably Mercer which is an aggressive collection company that is part of Barclays. I took advice when they first started harrassment and was told to offer up no information. Nobody you have been in contact with( at Barclays or the debt co) will be legally qualified to offer you suitable advise,( They are just call centre bods) they are relying on your “isolated ignorance” to what may be happening to other trainees, hence the request that you keep paying.

    There is no cost in submitting a case to the ombudsman,you do not need a solicitor, Barclays are effectively fined for every complaint received by the FOS. Citizens Advice Bureau,Trading Standards or the like will not help you as it is Barclays. Solicitors know that at most you may win back £10000 but they would want fees of at least this amount to take on Barclays ( For fear that Barclays may engage heavyweight legal teams)-So compile the case yourself for free!

    If the Ombudsman decides your complaint is not valid then and only then could Barclays take you to court to reclaim what they believe they are owed. It is unlikely at this time that Barclays would attempt to take this route as they are complicit in the demise of dozens of training companies (on or around February 18th 2010) and there are hundreds perhaps thousands of disaffected trainees.Ask yourself-If they had such a right to payment from you why have they not started proceedings against you through the county court process?

    If you feel that your situation is similar to the open letter as I did, then take the opportunity to prepare your case and contact the Financial Ombudsman Service. When I contacted the FOS they were very helpful suggesting that I was one of many.Have all your details to hand such as trainee id, and treat your last letter from Barclays as BARCLAYS FINAL WORD on the matter. This then gives you a period of 6 months to contact the Ombudsman with your full submission of evidence. Evidence can be all items that you believe directly affected you – such as delaying you from attending a module or not actually running a module.

    As Barclays were partners to Property Professionals in providing the finance you may have a claim against Barclays under the consumer credit act. Also remember that the demise of Property Professionals was instigated by Barclays, so from the day you first attended a meeting at Property Professionals Barclays were a reassuring presence in your decision to train with HIT/PP.

    Evidence can also be any items or information that may be in the public domain that at first you think have no relevance to your personal circumstances such as the content of this open letter and all of the blog comments.

    If you search google for “Advent” “Computeach” “Barclays Partner Finance” you will find that there are hundreds of trainees from within the IT sector who were caught out by training companies supported by Barclays. These trainees appear more unified and vocal than HIT/PP trainees and it would appear have similarities to our own. They also have cases pending with the Financial Ombudsman.

    Do not be intimidated by BFP the “final word letter” I received from them before contacting the FOS, was fairly standard in draft,suggested that I carry on paying them,ignored key facts put to them and suggested that under “the principles of contract law” I was under a duty to support my own losses however or whoever was responsible for them- this was just waffle with no more legal expertise employed in its content than what I or you could compile.

    Hope this helps.

  34. i to think we need to be more unified if we pull together as one voice powered by many rather than individuals we might get some where i have allso contacted the ombudsman and found them verry helpfull i don’t care if i don’t get back what ive paid upto know i just want the rest written off and for barclays to lern a lesson that they can’t push the little guy around.

  35. Hi all, I just found this website and it gives me some hope. I have just had a letter from the ombudsman saying they do not find in my favour. They said that bpf offered Stroma as a replacement trainer and there was no reason for me not to accept them. I am very upset with this and am going to appeal. This has been going on for ages and is quite stressful. Any tips on my appeal would be gratefully received.

  36. Hi Scott

    Not yet having received my ombudsman decision and not knowing the details of your complaint to the ombudsman, just a few questions.

    Did Stroma want extra money off you for training with them? Was the course offered by them ABBE level 4 or a lower level of qualification than you signed up for with PP?

    Did Barclays take an unreasonable amount of time in instructing Stroma after PP`s demise?

    Were you a party to a contract/agreement “suggesting” that you would be engaged by the energy assesor panel after completion of your training?

    Did PP time you out of modules by not running them?

    Did you pursue the PP course with vigour,attempting to move through the modules before PP could prevent you from completing by not running the remainder?

    Although we are all in the same boat, there will be different outcomes-how much information did you submit to the ombudsman? A sketchy picture or every document in your possession? NOTE The Ombudsman will only address your case with the information you presented.

  37. Hi Scott,

    I too have just had my Ombudsman case rejected and have until the 17th May to appeal. What was the outcome of your appeal? Any advice would be appreciated.

    Regards

    Colin

  38. Has anyone got an update on this, was the financial ombudsman any help?

  39. I did send in my appeal to the financial onbudsmen, but again he has gone in favour of PP/Barclays. I have been given another chance to appeal by 3rd June. I have covered the majority of the issues raised in Joseph Pestell letter to no avail. So I am now at at lost of how to proceed.
    Regards Colin ckmead41@hotmail.com

  40. I have only just found this site -I thought I had covered most angles with my compliant regarding the finance for the PP training but have just received a letter from financial ombudsman in favour of Barclays as – it is a technicality -I had signed the loan agreement as my son (who the course was for ) was not in a position to do so.
    Soo… as colin above says …how do we preceed from here? Also is there any current sites that might help as scrolling though previous sites I have found most are not being currently used or are unavailable.

  41. Hi All,
    I appealed the initial descision and included some the misrepresentation tips on this page. I haven’t heard anything yet.
    Fingers crossed I will get the decision I want.

    I will let you know when I get the verdict.

    Regards and thanks.
    Scott

  42. Hi,

    I have just been knocked back from a new job because of this; the position is being held open until I can get a letter from the ombudsman saying it was likely that I would win my case.

    PP went into administration before I could start my training. I had neither seen nor received any money or any services, so clearly there is no loss to BPF. So one wonders why they insist they have a legal claim to more than £8000 of my money? I don’t think so. And obviously by that time, the HI market was saturated, as I found out.

    Can anyone give me any advice on how to best present my case? The sooner I can do this the sooner I may get my job back.

    Thanks

    Tim

  43. there is still an investagation to see if pp acted legaly if they did not then bpf are responsable as well

  44. Hi there

    Barlcays are still after me for the money but I refuse to pay them, any news on the investigation?

  45. no news as yet they said they would let me know .well done for not paying these parasites

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