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HouseSimple ad banned over in-house advice and legal fee claims

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  • 22/02/2017
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Estate agent HouseSimple has been ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) not to rerun a TV advert that featured the claim “sell your home for just £495”.

The ad, which aired in July and August 2016, featured a voiceover which said “sell your home for just £495 upfront or choose ‘no sale, no fee’. How simple is that?”

The regulator investigated the claim following a complaint by a consumer who was told by HouseSimple that they would have to pay additional charges unless they used the firm’s conveyancing and mortgage services.

In its assessment on the case, the ASA said consumers would interpret the claim to mean that no more than £495 would need to be paid upfront when selling their property with HouseSimple.

However, where consumers chose to use their own conveyancers or mortgage brokers, they would be charged an additional fee.

The ASA concluded that on this basis, the advertisement was misleading, and was banned from being published again in the form complained about.

The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) investigation into competition in the mortgage sector, will look at how commercial arrangements within the sector affect consumer outcomes. The FCA said its remit will include “estate agents and developers who introduce consumers to lenders and brokers” as well as any firm or entity “that aids consumers to make decisions along this journey”.

In their submissions to the FCA, some brokers highlighted concerns about recommendations made by estate agents, particularly regarding advice sought by certain brokers, particularly if they imply that doing so is necessary to view or secure a property. “We are interested in exploring the incentives estate agents have to refer consumers to use their in-house broker and whether this leads to worse outcomes for consumers,” the FCA said.

An additional complaint submitted to the ASA which challenged whether a claim in the advert about “professional photos” was misleading, as the person who took photos of the complainant’s property was not a professional photographer, was not upheld. The ASA concluded that the photos were not misleading as they were taken by HouseSimple’s agents who were experienced in taking property photos and taken on a professional camera.

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