Sir Bryan Carsberg, the former head of the Office of Fair Trading, has called for the controversial home information packs (HIPs) to be made voluntary.

At present, in England and Wales, anyone trying to sell their home has to have one of the packs – at a cost of several hundred pounds. The scheme, which has come under fire from many in the housing industry, will be extended to Scotland next year.

Critics say the requirement to have a HIP has done nothing to ease the shortage of properties for sale. However, consumer groups have welcomed the extra information contained in the packs.

Sir Bryan, who is conducting a review of the residential property market, has also called for estate and letting agents to be regulated to give consumers greater protection.

As the law stands, anyone can set up as an estate or letting agent; there is no requirement for formal qualifications or a licence.

"I think that the markets for estate agencies, letting agencies and managing agencies are not working well because clients are not well informed about the qualifications of different agents and about what to expect from them in the way of service," said Sir Bryan.

Rogue property professionals can be closed down by the Office of Fair Trading, but this tends to happen only in the most serious of cases.

The Independent