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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Ailing online agency House Network hit by complaint to watchdog

The troubled online agency House Network has amended its website after a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about its claims over fees.

House Network has in recent weeks been the subject of speculation concerning redundancies and financial difficulties, although as of last evening it still accepts telephone and email enquiries from prospective customers. 

However, the ASA has received a complaint regarding the agency’s ’20 point customer promise’ displayed prominently on the home page of its website.

At the time of the complaint - and last evening when checked by Estate Agent Today - the House Network site says there is “no commission”.

The complainant to the ASA challenged whether the ad was misleading because they themselves had charged commission for selling their property.

The authority got in touch with House Network which explained that its ’20 point customer promise’ came into effect in February 2018.

Therefore a customer who had transacted through the agency before that time would have been charged commission - irrespective of what the website says now.

“House Network showed us a copy of the current contract which stated that no commission is charged. House Network agreed to amend its website so that it was clearer for consumers” a spokesman for the ASA told Estate Agent Today.

The most recent figures from The Advisory, a consultancy monitoring online agency activity on a fortnightly basis, suggest that between February 7 and February 21 House Network took on just 79 new listings.

House Network was set up back in 2003 by Mark Readings, who remains the lead figure at the agency, and by Graham Lock who is no longer linked to the firm and is now setting up the Federation of Independent Agents.

Its current business model involves sellers paying £795 upfront or a split of £385 upfront plus £600 after a completed sale or after six months of marketing if the property fails to sell.

House Network has not responded to EAT enquiries about its future plans or alleged financial problems; last week we ran this story on the agency’s problems.

  • Andrew Stanton Estate Agency Insights And Strategies

    Why has the ASA not looked into the fact that my favourite online brand Purplebricks advertise on TV no commission, yet the self employed Local Property Experts, earn commission from each property they are instructed upon, with a further commission for accompanied viewings. So, they get a fixed commission on every listing.

    Or should ASA be looking at all the LPA's who trade mostly as sole traders or the instructing estate agent, and make sure the LPA's tell the client that there is a 75% commission being paid to Purplebricks for listing, not selling the property.

    The big thing the ASA should look at is if PB UK list property by taking a fee upfront and that revenue in 2019 is 120M to 130M but only half of the clients get a service, eg get sold, then PB are getting 60M plus upfront for doing nothing, with no refund policy. NOW THAT IS CAKE IN THE FACE.

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    It's up to you to make a complaint, not the ASA to go hunting and they only look at the advertising practice, not the business model. All adverts have to comply with the basis of being legal, decent, honest and truthful and if a complaint is raised, the respondent has to be able to evidence and prove that the advert meets that criteria . If you think PB isn't meeting this criteria, make a complaint.

  • Andrew Stanton Estate Agency Insights And Strategies

    Hi Graham, thanks for that advice, I am fully aware of who can complain, but as I am not likely to be a customer of PB, I will not be triggering that issue.

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    You don't need to be a customer of a company to complain about a TV advert.

     
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