Purplebricks appears to have been defying advice from The Property Ombudsman on virtual viewings.
EYE has discovered a disclaimer on the agent’s listings that appears to exempt itself from Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) if a property is purchased based on a virtual viewing.
The disclaimer, which features on Zoopla and Rightmove listings, said:
“If you choose to make an offer based solely on a virtual viewing, then Purplebricks does not accept any liability for errors in the information provided, including but not limited to, measurements, photography and video content in the event that a physical valuation has not been carried out.
“Should you decide to make an offer on a property, you accept that any representations made in relation to the property may be based on virtual information provided by the vendor.
“In the event that the valuation was carried out virtually, Purplebricks is not responsible for this information or its accuracy. If in any doubt, you should make additional enquiries before completion.”
TPO issued guidance on agent consumer responsibilities after seeking primary authority advice from Warwick Trading Standards in May.
The advice stated:
“Representations made during any video footage would be subject to the same legal requirements of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 – this would include video footage, audio and any representations given by any person on the video (or voiceover).
“An agent is required to take all reasonable precautions and exercise all due diligence to avoid the commission of such an offence by himself or any person under his control.”
Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman, told EYE:
“As stated in the primary authority advice from Warwick Trading Standards, which TPO and Propertymark agents must follow, representations made during any video footage would be subject to the same legal requirements of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
“TPO always looks at the evidence and what is fair and reasonable in the actual circumstances – we would advise all agents to have regard to the Codes of Practice and to the Primary Authority Advice.”
A Zoopla spokesperson said: “Agents are responsible for ensuring their listings comply with relevant laws.
“We would always recommend that a prospective buyer/tenant follows the guidance of the Property Ombudsman and undertakes a physical viewing of property and does not rely solely on virtual information when making their decision.”
A Rightmove spokesperson said: “It is best practice to view a property in person before making an offer.
“In the current climate, the Government’s guidance is that virtual viewings are used before visiting a property in person to cut down on the number of physical viewings required.
“CPRs apply to all content within property details, including video, whether they are user-generated or not, and agents validate the accuracy of these details.
“Any agent who has used disclaimers like this when physical inspections were impossible due to coronavirus restrictions, should be removing them now that the market is open and properties can be visited in person.”
Trading Standards have been asked for comment.
Purplebricks said in a statement:
“Purplebricks complies with all consumer legislation and this statement doesn’t exclude any consumer rights.
“During the lockdown of the housing market, customers had to provide their own details for virtual viewings.
“While we took all reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of any details, because we weren’t able to verify descriptions or measurements, we wanted to highlight that purchasers should confirm all information is correct.”
Following sending us this statement a Purplebricks spokesperson contacted EYE to say that the company is in the process of removing these disclaimers and said they were happy that it complied with TPO guidance.