The long-running complaint by the Charter for Independent Estate Agents (CIELA) to the Advertising Standards Authority that Purplebricks TV ads are misleading has been upheld.
Two ‘commisery’ adverts aired in March this year – one featuring a man screaming into a cupboard and another a woman falling into cake – were reported to the ASA by CIELA because, the now ‘on ice’ members organisation claimed, the adverts were misleading.
It said the comparison in the ads between Purplebricks’ flat fee and traditional agents’ commission structure were not accurate and therefore misleading.
The ASA has upheld this complaint – a valedictory win for CIELA only two weeks after it was announced it had not attracted enough members to go to full launch.
Within its judgement published today, the ASA says that although it “acknowledged” the difference between flat fees and commission payments, it says flat fees are relatively new in the property market and that, because people move home infrequently, they wouldn’t be familiar with how a flat-fee worked, or that it is different from a commission.
“We considered that it was not sufficiently clear in the ads that the fee payable to Purplebricks was not conditional on the sale of the property and therefore concluded that the ad was misleading,” the ASA says.
“The ads must not be broadcast again in their current form. We told Purplebricks to ensure that when making a comparison to other fee models in their ads, they made it clear that their flat fee was always payable.”
The CIELA complaint has been under investigation now for seven and a half months after the agent grouping made the complaint part of its pre-launch publicity, saying the adverts were “misleading to consumers”.
A second complaint made by Oakhill Estate Agents claiming that the same ads implied that Purplebricks did not charge a fee for their service, was not upheld by the ASA.
“We considered that consumers would understand that Purplebricks was a commercial business and would charge for their services,” it says.
“We therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead them into thinking that there would be no fee.”
Purplebricks TV ads
“We are surprised by the ASA judgement on the flat fee wording because prior to air our adverts went through the proper approvals process, including the official clearance body Clearcast who have continued to support their original judgement with the ASA,” says Michael Bruce, CEO of Purplebricks.
“Purplebricks is firmly on the side of the consumer, offering an alternative to the commission based model.
“As a leader of industry change some noise is inevitable.
“Purplebricks is committed to increasing levels of transparency within the industry, publishing its fixed fee rates on the home page of its website so all consumers from the outset have certainty as to the cost of selling.
“Purplebricks is far more transparent than traditional estate agents who do not typically publish their rates, allowing them to charge much greater and varying fees dependent upon a customer’s ability or capacity to negotiate.”