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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Online agent changes ad after 'misleading' complaint

Online estate agency HouseSimple has changed the wording of one of its adverts after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a complaint that it was misleading.

The advert, which appeared on a tram, suggested that clients of HouseSimple could “Save £15,665 versus average Foxtons fee of 2.4”.

The complainant queried whether the ad could be deemed misleading because it did not make clear the basis of the savings claim. 

The ASA says that after it approached HouseSimple with the complaint, the agency agreed to amend the ad. 

HouseSimple amended the advert to make it clear that the savings claim is based on selling a property at the agency's own current average asking price in London.

In light of this amendment, the ASA considered the matter to have been 'informally resolved' and closed the case. 

"The complaint related to a particular figure we had referenced in the advert. We accepted that it might have been confusing and were happy to make the necessary amend to ensure the message we were trying to get across was as clear as possible," Alex Gosling, ceo of HouseSimple told Estate Agent Today.

He says that the firm came to the savings figure of £15,664 by taking its average price for a London property (£561,373) and using Foxtons' average vendor fee of 2.4% +VAT (which was taken from independent research by Peel Hunt) to calculate a vendor fee of £16,167. 

It then subtracted its own average vendor fee for a London property (£502) to arrive at the conclusion that the average HouseSimple vendor in London would save over £15,000 by using the online agency over Foxtons.

HouseSimple says that if it had used Foxtons' or Rightmove's average London property price in its advert, it would have quoted respective savings figures of £25,001 and £17,213.

Gosling says that this incident won't change the way his firm structures its advertising campaigns in the future.

“We feel the message we are trying to convey to consumers, on the savings they can make using an online estate agent, is an important one to get across. We just need to ensure the message is clear so there's no room for confusion," he says.

He also confirms that HouseSimple will continue to use the Foxtons comparison in its ads.

"We feel we are within our rights to make that comparison. The figures are taken from a credible source."

  • Chris Arnold

    What if a sale hits problems from offer to completion? The £500 fee doesn't inspire that sufficient time will be devoted to resolving matters. The online business model remains flawed and only for those that like to gamble

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    It's not surprising that they changed the wording voluntarily. They must have known any case against them would have been upheld and by doing it 'voluntarily' softens the negative publicity blow.

  • Jon  Tarrey

    @Chris Arnold - I think you're being a little harsh on online agents. In what way is it flawed compared to, say, agency websites that look like they've been lifted from the early days of the internet (plenty of traditional agents have this issue) or a resistance to anything resembling change or better value for money for the customers?

    Not saying online agents are perfect, far from it. But I think there is plenty to criticise traditional agents for as well. I don't understand why online and traditional can't just co-exist together. If online agents are no threat, why do the trads get so defensive about them?

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