Four complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that Purplebricks LPEs are neither ‘local’ nor ‘expert’ has been rejected by the watchdog.
The complainants, who included Plymouth Trading Standards, property consultant Alexander Dawson and Chris Wood’s PDQ Estates, said calling Purplebricks’ agents ‘local’ and ‘expert’ – as featured on the company’s ‘meet our experts’ section – was misleading and could not be substantiated.
During the ASA investigation, Purplebricks said ‘local’ referred to their agent’s local knowledge instead of their geographical location, and that they ensured each LPE had relevant knowledge of their patch.
Purplebricks also told the ASA that its LPEs offer an “equivalent service to traditional estate agents” including doing valuations and preparing property listings, although it said there was no ‘set radius’ each of its LPEs covers, and that coverage depends on the sales volumes of the area.
The company also said Purplebricks LPEs have “strong knowledge of the local property market” and “strong valuation experience” and that agents on average have between five and ten years’ experience working in the industry before joining Purplebricks.
But they don’t have to be qualified – LPEs can join Purplebricks without any qualifications but must pass all National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) Technical Level 3 exams and become members while on the job.
LPEs also go through an internal training programme before starting work, the company says.
“They said that at the end of the training programme, individuals were subject to a 29-point sign-off sheet, which was completed by the Area Director for that region,” the ASA says.
“They also confirmed that during the role, Local Property Experts were subject to a number of quality control checks.”
Purplebricks also revealed to the ASA that it has set up an academy to train LPEs who had not worked in the industry before which put them through a year-long development scheme including classroom training, field ‘shadowing’ and an exam.
The company also gave the ASA CVs for 52 of the most recently recruited LPEs, 41 of which had over five years’ experience, while two had no experience, and that the majority were former local high street agents.
“We considered that because there was not a single standardised professional qualification within the property field, the combination of property experience, qualifications, professional membership and an internal training programme was sufficient to substantiate the claim “expert”,” the ASA says.
In a seperate adjudication, the ASA also received a complaint about Purplebricks competitor YOPA.
It recently sent out a mailing in which it “exaggerated the possible savings a customer would receive when using its service”, the ASA says.
“We approached the advertiser about the concerns that had been raised [and] it agreed to remove the claims from future ads”.