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Be clearer about upfront fees and ‘local experts’ hybrid estate agents are warned

The Advertising Standards Authority has published guidance largely aimed at online agents after a rush of complaints in recent years.

Nigel Lewis

hybrid estate agents

A thinly-veiled warning to online and hybrid estate agents to put their advertising and marketing ‘houses in order’ has been issued by The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Published yesterday, it includes problems highlighted by recent ASA adjudications and the watchdog says agents must in the future be clearer both about what their fees cover and when using the term ‘local experts’.

The guidance references recent ASA adjudications involving HouseSimple in February 2017, an online offering from traditional agent Pink & Cow in June 2017 and Purplebricks in June 2018.

Specifically, the watchdog is worried that some agents are not being clear about whether their fees are ‘upfront’ or not, and what ‘flat fee’ really means for consumers.

Flat fee claims

For example, under the ASA advertising codes, it is wrong for agents to claim they offer a ‘flat fee’ but then charge extra for conveyancing.

The ASA says that although online agents can promote low fees they should make it clear whether accompanied viewings are part of the fee, or not.

And while hybrid agents are free to claim that they offer ‘local experts’ they must not imply they have physical branches in an area when they do not, the ASA says.

But the watchdog’s guidance also warns traditional agents too. This includes advertising that ‘stretches the facts’ about a property, a problem that the ASA says it still receives many complaints about.

And all agents have been reminded once again to ensure that their fees are presented as inclusive of VAT, not ‘plus’.

“Be clear and truthful in your advertising and look at ads from the consumer’s point of view,” says Jim Tebbett, a Senior Compliance Executive at the ASA with a track record in lettings and auctions regulation (pictured in main image, above).

“As soon as you’ve drafted some marketing or advertising material, look at it externally and try and think how the consumer would understand it.”

Read more about hybrid estate agents.

July 19, 2018

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