Estate agents have supported calls for tougher regulation after a watchdog highlighted limited price competition and dissatisfaction from people buying and selling homes.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said more efficient enforcement of legislation was needed to protect consumers from rogue estate agents.

But members of Brighton and Hove Estate Agents' Association said the OFT's recommendations did not go far enough.

Spokesman Phil Graves said: "I think the recommendations will be music to everyone's ears who conducts their business in a correct manner.

"Speaking for my own practice, I'd love to see the whole industry licensed.

"That would sift the good from the bad and we would be left with a much higher standard of service being offered to the general public. Those who are unprofessional would be driven out.

"We already go some way to dealing with it within the association. We have fairly strict rulings which we impose and vet membership as much as possible, so we're halfway there already."

Association president Mike Davis said: "I wish the Government would go further and regulate not just estate agents but letting agents and managing agents too. A couple of managing agents cleared off last year with clients' money."

Gary Verity, managing director of Bradford and Bingley estate agents, said: "The OFT report proposes improvements in the transparency of pricing and levels of service and should be welcomed by the industry.

"I do, however, feel the report could have gone further by introducing minimum service standards and licencing and stops short of full regulation."

OFT chairman John Vickers said: "There is widespread public dissatisfaction about the market for estate agency services.

"Necessary changes include sharper price competition, more effective regulation and higher industry standards."

The OFT said a quarter of people who recently sold a house were not satisfied with the service they received, complaining of poor value for money, delays in the sale and inadequate communication.

More serious complaints included the failure by agents to pass on offers or declare a personal interest and suggestions buyers would be more successful if they used financial services offered by the estate agent.

The OFT urged consumers to shop around, get quotes from more than one estate agent, and negotiate on fees. It said agents should also be required to quote fees in both percentage and cash terms.

Consumer magazine Which? said the report was "woefully inadequate" and fell short of what was needed to protect consumers from poor service and sometimes criminal activity within the industry.

Senior public affairs adviser Emma Harrison said: "After two years of investigation we expected the OFT's recommendations to be stronger.

"Not only has this done little to ensure adequate levels of consumer protection but has also left the industry open to rogue traders."

Thursday March 25, 2004