A TV ad for HouseSimple, an estate agent, has been banned in its current form by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The ad, seen in July and August 2016. A man speaking to the camera said “Get an expert evaluation, professional photos and floor plans”. A voice-over stated, “sell your home for just £495 upfront or choose ‘no sale, no fee’. How simple is that?”
One complainant, who said they were told that they would have to pay additional charges unless they used the advertiser’s conveyancing and mortgage services, challenged whether the claim “just £495” was misleading.
HouseSimple said that the charges referenced by the complainant were not additional charges as they were included in a package at a cost of £495. They explained that the ‘pay upfront’ package at £495 included the use of their recommended conveyancers and mortgage brokers. They could offer that package at a lower price because they claimed a commission from their conveyancers and mortgage brokers and therefore were able to pass on the savings to the customer.
Clearcast stated that the complainant would have found that they would have to pay more than £495 unless they used HouseSimple’s own conveyancers and mortgage services. They said that they received substantiation from HouseSimple at the script clearance stage which stated that customers could receive all the necessary services required to sell their property online for the featured price of £495 upfront.
The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the claim “sell your home for just £495” to mean that they would not have to pay more than £495 upfront when selling their property with HouseSimple.
The ad watchdog acknowledged that the price of £495 was available to customers who used HouseSimple’s recommended conveyancing and mortgage services. However, it understood that where consumers chose their own conveyancers and/or mortgage brokers they would be charged an additional fee. The ASA considered that was a significant limitation that had been omitted from the ad, and in the absence of qualifying information which made clear that the price only applied to customers who used HouseSimple’s recommended conveyancers and mortgage brokers, the ASA concluded the claim that consumers could sell their home for “just £495” was misleading.
On this point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising), 3.10 (Qualification) and 3.18 (Prices).
The ASA said the ad must not appear again in the form complained about. HouseSimple was told to to ensure their ads made clear that the advertised price was only applicable to customers who used their recommended conveyancing and mortgage services.