Watchdog launches probe into way online agents advertise their fees

The advertising watchdog is to investigate online agents that are advertising their fees exclusive of VAT.

The move follows pressure from Adam Day of Hatched, who wrote to the ASA last month claiming that some online agents are flouting the Committee of Advertising Practice guidance to include VAT in advertised rates.

Day said that despite this, and despite advice from the Property Ombudsman, “it is clear that a number of agents, including the likes of Purplebricks, Emoov, Tepilo and House Network, are still advertising rates exclusive of VAT”.

The ASA has now informed Day that its compliance team is investigating the matter and will pursue it with the firms identified.

Day said: “We’ve included VAT in our prices for over 18 months now, ahead of any rulings being passed. We did this in order to be completely transparent and fair to our customers.

“After all, they can’t claim the VAT back, so the price they see is the price they should pay.

“Those agents deciding not to include VAT within their prices are doing a disservice to potential customers by misleading them with a more attractive headline price, only for the customer to be hit with another £100 or so charge when they get to the checkout.”

He added: “When I started Hatched, it was always my intention to create a new type of estate agency that was as transparent as possible.

“I know that my peers within the sector are also striving for complete transparency, coupled with the ultimate customer experience, but I’m afraid they are letting the customer down on this.

“If ‘online estate agents’ as a sector wish to change estate agency for the better, then we all need to be raising the bar, and this includes when quoting transparent fees inclusive of VAT.

“It’s a shame that I’ve had to involve the ASA, as I thought, having made the first move 18 months ago, others would follow, but it’s gone on long enough now and something has to be done.

“I welcome the ASA’s investigation and look forward to swift changes being made to agents’ websites over the next days and weeks.”

Yesterday morning, Eye checked the websites of those online agents named by Day and found that all showed their prices plus VAT.


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  1. Jonnie

    Nice, the budget boys are now turning on each other, anyway, so for some / most of the ‘big ones’ by big we mean holding equivalent amount of stock to 8 or 9 biggish full service agents, it’s going to muddle their super cheap headline prices up, they will have to rewrite the PB advert with those two smug yet wonderfully gormless lads in for starters, perhaps if anyone can be fagged with it they can throw another bone to the ASA and get them to have a look at the whole fiddle the budgets do on ‘savings’  over real agents and get them to point out they charge up front blah, blah. – Jonnie

  2. PeeBee

    Funny, innit – Mr Day has a hissy and goes crying to the policeman, all ‘cos he’s probably losing out on a few instructions and blames it all on the nasty people not including VAT in their flashing headlines – instead of looking at why people actually made a choice not to talk to his call centre in the first place.

    Welcome to the REAL Estate Agency world, Mr Day.

    Bit of advice – you seem to have a pair… of sorts – but they will have to grow exponentially.  And quickly.

    People don’t seem to like a tell-tale…

    1. PeeBee

      Which part of the above does everyone seem to disagree with?

      Or is it just Mr Day using all his tech-toys in one go?

  3. livingproperty

    I’m sorry Mr Day, but haven’t you just been investigated by the ASA again for false advertising on your website for saying that you were ‘the only online agent that goes out to visit and measure up a property’?

  4. Herb

    Well done hatched, I’m not sure why the ASA cannot police this themselves rather than letting the public do their initial work – lazy wotsits! I did email the offenders myself on this a month ago and they said they would look into this. One day the public will realise they will always get better offers many thousands more far outweighing what they save on fees from a traditional local agent as well as a better service and don’t pay a penny until after completion.

  5. Will B

    I assume this means the whole industry will have to follow suit. No point focusing on just 3% of the market ASA, the worst offenders are the High Street Agents where the VAT adds hundreds if not thousands on to the bill.

    1. PeeBee

      “…the worst offenders are the High Street Agents where the VAT adds hundreds if not thousands on to the bill.”

      NOT if your quoted Fee already includes VAT, it doesn’t…

  6. Herb

    Will B – Many agents don’t advertise their fees so don’t need to change. The same as lawyers, architects etc.

  7. Herb

    This is only for adverts in print, websites etc

  8. JungleProperty

    A significant proportion of agents break this rule and the ASA don’t seem to have the motivation (and possibly resources) to address this unless a member of the public follow their formal complaints procedure. There is some small print on the ASA website that discourages complaints from one business about another business in an attempt to prevent tit-for-tat complaints that would take up too much of their precious time.

  9. JAM01

    So what about companies that drive around with branding all over their cars and all over every piece of marketing they have, including boards that states 1% plus VAT. Are they flouting the rules?




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