In new guidance published on its website, the ASA noted that any “significant limitations and qualifications to advertised fees” need to be made clear, urging agents to be “careful to explain exactly what customers are going to get” for the fees paid.
It pointed out that it had upheld complaints over ads in which the agent claimed to sell properties for a flat fee, but which did not make clear that users would pay a further fee in order to use their own conveyancer, as well as complaints against an ad which did not make clear that the advertised fee did not include accompanied viewings.
The ASA also instructed agents to make sure that quoted prices include VAT, and information about whether the fee is payable up-front and whether it applies regardless of whether the property sells or not.
Boasting of local expertise
The guidance noted that it was not uncommon for online agents to make claims about the local knowledge and expertise of their staff, even if they are not based in or around a particular location.
The ASA cautioned that care must be taken not to imply the existence of physical branches, or of being based in particular locations, when this was not the case.
The final issue raised in the guidance focuses on the fact that online agents often like to favourably compare their fees with those charged by high street rivals in their advertising.
This has been a common cause of complaints to the ASA, with the regulator warning that agents must make sure that any comparisons are “based on objective criteria”, with adequate evidence to support any comparison.
It added: “Savings claims must be supported with comprehensive documentary evidence; a simple customer survey will not be sufficient.”