An online agency’s claim that it sells homes “for free” has been disputed by a High Street rival - but the advertising watchdog has thrown out the challenge.
The dispute arose over a claim by HouseSimple on its website stating “SELL YOUR HOME FOR FREE.”
The text stated “No fees, No commission, No catch” next to a list with tick marks which stated “Local expert valuation”, “Professional photos and floorplan”, “Ads on Rightmove, Zoopla and many more”, “For Sale Board”, “Negotiations and sales progression” and “Your own friendly property expert throughout”.
High Street agency Manning Stainton contacted the Advertising Standards Authority and challenged whether the HouseSimple claim “Sell your home FOR FREE” was misleading. Manning Staunton raised particular concern about some terms and conditions relating to the offer.
In response to the ASA probe HouseSimple said it marketed every property for free for an initial six-month period.
At the end of that period, the agency performed a market review on the property and if it felt that it could collaborate with the vendor, the marketing period was extended free of charge.
HouseSimple told the ASA it had never charged anyone for marketing beyond the six-month period nor had it ever refused anyone marketing beyond that period of time.
HouseSimple said its service was offered in the North of England where the “SELL YOUR HOME FOR FREE” policy was available.
HouseSimple also told the ASA it did not make any claims that its service was available throughout the UK and that its website made clear the service was only available in certain postcodes.
Its website included a facility where users could enter their postcode; if it was outside the area users were presented with a pop-up box that stated “Our free Estate Agency service is coming soon”.
HouseSimple added that its terms stated it reserved the right to charge travel costs to get to a property if it was particularly remote. It also reserved the right to charge if a property took longer to photograph because it was large or if there were multiple properties. However, it had never charged a fee in either situation and it did not intend to do so.
HouseSimple said it included those clauses in its terms as a precaution for extreme scenarios, which it had yet to encounter.
Additionally HouseSimple said it provided a free ‘for sale’ board to every customer without exception but that in the rare event a vendor requested an additional board, it reserved the right to charge. However, it had never actually charged any fee for additional boards.
The ASA backed HouseSimple against Manning Staunton and declared the complaint ‘not upheld’.