Fledgling trade body CIELA, the Charter for Independent Estate and Lettings Agents, has written to Purplebricks asking it to withdraw its TV advertising and comparable savings claims.
It says that if Purplebricks does not take reasonable steps to correct “instances of misleading representations on your website and television advertisements”, it will complain to the Advertising Standards Authority.
CIELA alleged in a lengthy press release issued yesterday that the “financial harm being done to consumers runs into tens of millions”.
In its letter to Purplebricks, CIELA alleges that while statements made in the adverts are not factually inaccurate, they “serve to mislead the reasonable, average consumer”.
They are therefore, says CIELA, in breach of parts of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising, and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
The letter says that for the TV adverts to compare Purplebricks’ flat fee with a high street agent’s no sale, no fee commission is “irresponsible and misleading”.
The letter further attacks the savings quoted by Purplebricks being based on a commission of 1.8%: “CIELA demands substantiation of this percentage”.
The letter requests Purplebricks to remove its TV adverts; refrain from comparing its service which it provides with a non-refundable fee, to the service provided by high street agents; and communicate in future adverts that the fee is non-refundable, even where the property is not sold or let.
CIELA also demands changes on the Purplebricks website, including: “Do not label the fee a ‘selling fee’, because it merely guarantees a listing, so label it as such.”
The letter ends: “We look forward to your prompt response on this important matter.
“We look forward to improving the industry together, and providing improved and transparent service to vendor-customers.
“Because CIELA considers this a high priority, be advised that we will submit a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority in the event that we are not satisfied that you are taking reasonable steps to correct instances of misleading representations on your website and television advertisements.”
Yesterday evening, a spokesperson for Purplebricks said: “We don’t propose to comment in response to CIELA’s press release.”