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Online agent HouseSimple censured for misleading fee claims

  • 16/08/2017
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Online agent HouseSimple censured for misleading fee claims
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld two separate complaints made against online estate agent HouseSimple, ordering the firm to remove misleading claims from its marketing.

The first complaint centred on a claim made on the agent’s website, in which it suggested the average fee charged by high street estate agents ranged from 1.5% to 4% plus VAT.

The second complaint focused on a TV advert from the company, in which it claimed that HouseSimple customers had saved an average of £5,000 in fees compared to using high street agents.

In both cases, complainants argued that the figures quoted were misleading and could not be substantiated.


Defending claims

HouseSimple defended the website claim, saying that it was based on a Home Owners Alliance article and a 2011 survey from Which?

In addition, HouseSimple provided two surveys of customers from last year who had previously received a quote from a high street agent, with those quotes usually in line with the 1.5% to 4% quoted on the web page.

With the TV advert, HouseSimple said that it had come from a survey of 391 customers in May 2016 who had received a quote from a high street agent before opting to sell with HouseSimple.

The survey calculated the average savings that customers would make by comparing the difference between the eventual sale price of their property with their estimated high street estate agent commission subtracted and the sale price of the property with HouseSimple’s fees subtracted.


Unclear ads

However, in both cases the ASA dismissed HouseSimple’s defence.

In its statement, the ASA said: “ We considered it was not clear from the ads that the service provided for HouseSimple’s fee was different to that of high street estate agents and that the omission of that information was likely to mislead in the context of the savings claims made.”

HouseSimple was told not to run the adverts again in their current form, and warned that any future claims would need to be more rigorously substantiated.

It is the second time this year that HouseSimple has fallen foul of the ASA. Back in February it was ordered to change a TV ad which claimed customers could sell their home for less than £500.

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