In its Your-move.co.uk Ltd ruling, the ASA ruled that the ads posted on rightmove.co.uk should have indicated clearly that an administration fee was excluded from the quoted price, and that enough information should have been provided in order to allow consumers to easily establish how further charges would be calculated.
If you’re an estate agent advertising rental prices, there are two types of fee information you must include in your advertising material.
Fees subject to Rule 3.18
CAP Code rule 3.18 states:
“Quoted prices must include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers. However, VAT-exclusive prices may be given if all those to whom the price claim is addressed pay no VAT or can recover VAT. Such VAT-exclusive prices must be accompanied by a prominent statement of the amount or rate of VAT payable.”
Non-optional fees relating to a property that can be calculated in advance and apply to all or most tenants need to be included beside the monthly rent, clearly stated at the top of the page in the initial ad (if it applies to every rental listing) or in another equally prominent position - that doesn’t mean in the small print. A claim like “£1000pcm + £100 admin fee per tenant” would be sufficient. This applies to all media including websites, brochures and leaflets (except property portals; see below).
Fees subject to Rule 3.19
CAP Code rule 3.19 states:
“If a tax, duty, fee or charge cannot be calculated in advance, for example, because it depends on the consumer's circumstances, the marketing communication must make clear that it is excluded from the advertised price and state how it is calculated.”
Some fees can’t reasonably be calculated in advance, because they will depend on the consumer’s circumstances, but the fact that these fees apply or might apply needs to be made immediately clear. This should be signposted with a claim like “£1000pcm + other fees apply" [or “may apply”]. See ‘Compulsory costs and charges: Letting agents’.
The full fee information and how those fees are calculated should be included on the landing page via a hyperlinked “fees apply” or “other fees may apply” tab or pop-up box (for websites) or, in small print directed by an asterisk. This applies to all media.
If you’re advertising on a property portal like Rightmove and Zoopla, CAP considers that it is currently acceptable for a “fees apply” pop-up to be included beside the monthly rental price, in which all applicable fee information can be found. There’s plenty of space so ensure you include all fees which fall under rules 3.18 and 3.19. Property portals are used by a huge number of agents, many of whom use different names for fees. The Compliance team considers that consumers are likely to be able to compare fees more easily between agents if they are consistently presented in a simple format and included in a “fees apply” pop-up box.
Don’t forget to include VAT in all fees (rule 3.19). See: ‘Property: Fees and VAT’. It’s obviously fine to say that your prices include VAT.
Finally, if you’re not including a rental price in an ad, you don’t need to include fee information.
You should seek legal advice in relation to your obligations under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which states that agents must “publicise details of the agent’s relevant fees”
The Compliance team takes immediate action to ensure that claims in ads are amended or removed if they breach CAP Code rules. Read more about the work of the Compliance team and enforcement action.
By Avghi Theocharous, Compliance Executive
Avghi studied History of Art and Architecture at the University of Reading before obtaining a Postgraduate Diploma in Law and a Master of Laws (LLM) in International and Commercial Dispute Resolution. She worked as a Copy Advice Executive for just over 3 years before joining the Compliance team in 2015.
The Compliance team ensure that ASA decisions are adhered to using a variety of approaches including swiftly acting to remedy non-compliant ads, co-ordinating sanctions, undertaking media and issue-specific project work and effectively monitoring of ads across all media.