So Rawlins, since you said on this thread:

“Few (buyers) make any attempt to filter out the unqualified, inexperienced, and unscrupulous (agents)”, and as a consequence are partly to blame for the mess they are in….

you admirably asked for a discussion/suggestions how buyers could actually do this.
I thought I would sit back for a few days and see what positive suggestions/solutions on this problem would come up.
A noticeable lack of contributions/suggestions from other agents on the forum I notice….

Since your accusation, you’ve written:

“What is the acid test for identifying a good agency – if such a test exists?
Suggestions welcomed”.

“Even the worst agents have mums, friends, and associates who would be happy to write a false testimony”.

“Perhaps, on reflection, it’s an impossible task; or perhaps nobody cares”.

Perhaps, “on reflection” it was a thoughtless and misguided accusation in the first place.

The bottom line is when a buyer comes out to Spain, despite there being many good honest agents around (and lawyers, Drakan), finding them is just a lottery.
Yes, some people are lucky – and others are not. And there doesn’t seems to be an answer, at least here, to change this situation.
Until there is an answer – I firmly believe that buyers are not partly to blame when they get screwed and resent the suggestion that they are.
Blaming buyers for the mess the industry is in is not the way forward to improve things.