DTI pressed for Ipoo inquiry

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The Independent Online
PRESSURE is growing on the Department of Trade and Industry for an inquiry into the activities of the International Property Owners Organisation (Ipoo), a consumer advice service that closed at the beginning of November.

The organisation specialised in advising the owners of Spanish holiday homes. As highlighted by the Independent on Sunday last month, many former clients were dissatisfied with the service. At least three complaints have now been lodged with the DTI.

Keith Baker, of the solicitors Croft Baker & Co, has complained to the department on behalf of one of his clients.

Representatives of two groups, the Amarilla Golf & Country Club Owners Association and the Association for the Defence of Parque Albatross, have also written to the department. Both organisations represent groups of owners in dispute with the developers of their properties.

They say they paid Ipoo thousands of pounds to fight their cases but little progress has been made. They claim they have been misled about legal work carried out on their behalf in Spain.

Brian Roe, president of the Amarilla owners' association, has told the DTI that his group gave Ipoo pounds 75,000. Ipoo later told the group that their case had been filed in Madrid but they later discovered that the action had not been started. A similar complaint has been made by representatatives of the Parque Albatross group.

Members of the Amarilla group are due to meet in Birmingham today and plan to discuss their experience with Ipoo and what further action they may take.

Ipoo was set up by Sandra Lewin and incorporated in 1988. It was based in Chiswick, west London, and made a name for itself as a champion of the rights of British property owners in Spain.

Ipoo never filed accounts with Companies House and as a result was fined pounds 300 plus pounds 35 costs last April.

Mrs Lewin has strongly defended the activities of Ipoo and continued to stand by her earlier defence last week. She said that she had heard nothing from the DTI.

Asked whether any money from former clients had been refunded, she said: 'Everything is with my solicitors and my accountants.'

The DTI said it was unable to comment on the affairs of individual companies.

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