A BOURNEMOUTH estate agent will have to pay out tens of thousands of pounds after it misled its customers and allowed one of its own employees to value a house they wanted to buy for themselves.

Business Illsley and Son Ltd, trading as Meridian Estate Agents, had been charged with eleven offences under the Unfair Trading Regulations.

Last week, legal representatives for the company based at 297 Charminster Road admitted nine of the allegations at Poole Magistrates' Court – five counts of trader engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading action containing false information, three of trader engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading omission and one of trader knowingly or recklessly engaging in a commercial practice.

Two charges of trader engaging in a commercial practice which was aggressive were dropped by prosecutors.

The latter two counts had alleged that threats were made to withhold a buyer’s access from a property until a purchasing fee was paid.

Matthew Illsley, the director of the business, was also initially charged with eleven offences under the Unfair Trading Regulations. All of these allegations were dropped before a trial.

Prosecutors said a series of false claims were made to both vendors and buyers.

The company falsely informed a buyer interested in a property in Ashley Road, Poole, that they needed to help with vendors' fees, when in fact the vendor wasn't required to pay a fee at all.

Another buyer for a home in Stanley Green Road, Poole was informed that they had to pay the commission fee as the vendor didn't want to pay it. However, Meridian had offered the vendor a zero per cent commission deal.

In one case, material information was omitted in the purchase of a house in Myrtle Road, Bournemouth when the estate agents failed to advise that VAT was payable on the fee.

A vendor selling a home in Bryant Road, Poole asked about the zero per cent commission deal and was told they only needed 'for sale' and 'sold' boards to "get their name out there". However, Meridian in fact required commission from the buyer. This also happened at a home in Popes Road, Oakdale.

One of the most serious charges relates to a home in Nortoft Road, Bournemouth. Meridian allowed one of its employees to value it, knowing the employee had a personal interest in it. A false statement was then made regarding the payment of a commission fee.

Meridian remains open. It has a second branch in Ashley Road, Parkstone.

The company admitted the offences on the first day of a planned trial last week.

In total, it was fined £5,500. Compensation of £24,364 and costs of £10,000 were also ordered, alongside a £170 victim surcharge.

As a result, the company, which was prosecuted by BCP Council's Trading Standards team, must now pay out £40,034.

Councillor Lewis Alison of BCP Council said: “Following a complaint to our Trading Standards team, an investigation was carried out into the practices of Meridian Estate Agents.

" This uncovered further evidence that buyers and sellers had been misled about an offer relating to the fees charged by the agent.

"The company also fell short of the requirements of professional diligence by allowing a member of staff to value a property for which they had a personal interest. Buying and selling a house is one of the largest financial decisions made by consumers and estate agents have a duty in law to provide full and accurate information.

"Fulfilling our own responsibility to protect consumers, we are pleased by the result of the court action, which has included significant compensation to those affected.’’