Purplebricks has been forced to alter its website after a landmark set of complaints against it were upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today.
The adjudication comes after an initial decision earlier this year by the watchdog went in its favour but was appealed by the complainant, who is franchised estate agency group Hunters.
In summary, the ASA has told Purplebricks that it must not repeat the claim that its service is comparable to traditional agents without making it clear it charges extra for viewings, and that its website must make it much clearer that its fees are paid upfront, not after the sale.
“The complaint, which came from a rival estate agency, was resolved four months ago in partnership with the ASA, made public by them and mutually agreed minor changes made to our website,” says a Purplebricks spokesperson.
“We were surprised when, only a day after reaching this agreed position and announcing it publicly, the same rival estate agent appealed this decision and their demands were met by the ASA. We believe this is unprecedented and unfair. We will appeal the ruling.”
The adjudication comes after Hunters originally complained in October 2017 to the ASA about three claims made on the Purplebricks website, which the hybrid agency agreed to amend.
Despite this, Hunters appealed the decision, insisting it was misleading to claim vendors could instruct Purplebricks to sell their homes for £849 because it was not clear that viewings were extra.
It also said an online Purplebricks calculator illustrating claimed savings for vendors who used the hybrid agent’s service was also misleading; and that an infographic did not make it clear that Purplebricks charges its fees up-front.
Hunters had originally said it was misleading to claim that vendors could instruct Purplebricks for £849 (and £1,119 in London) because these fees did not include the additional £300 one-off viewings fee that 40% of its vendors choose to pay.
Purplebricks argued that its fee structure was clear on its website, unlike many traditional agents, and that 60% of its customers did not pay the extra fee.
The ASA also upheld Hunters’ claims that the hybrid agent’s online savings calculator was misleading, despite Purplebricks again arguing that all the applicable fees were highlighted.
Lastly, the ASA said it was misleading of Purplebricks not to make it clear within the infographic that its fees were upfront because consumers, without adequate explanation, would assume the company operated the same way as traditional agents.
“We are extremely disappointed with this ruling change and the process adopted,” says the Purplebricks spokesperson.
“At Purplebricks we strive to ensure industry-leading levels of transparency by offering customers certainty of what they will pay to sell their house before they go on the market and a choice around whether they pay for our viewings services or undertake the viewings themselves.
“Our customers know their homes best and 60% of them choose to show potential buyers around themselves and save some money.
“Those who are too busy, or who prefer to leave it to our experts, pay a one-off £300 viewing fee to cover unlimited viewings. Customer choice has been a clearly communicated mainstay of our proposition and will remain so in the future.”