The website for Pink and Cow estate agents www.pinkandcow.com, included the claim “Sell your home for 0.5%” on their home page. Their services were listed further down the page, including “We’re in the perfect position to show buyers round your property” and “We’ll arrange high quality viewings and give you feedback at all times”.
The complainant, who understood that the 0.5% commission did not include accompanied viewings, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Pink and Cow said that it offered the full online estate agency service for 0.5% with no catches. They said that an online estate agent was very different to a high street agent and it did not think that the average consumer would assume that their service would include accompanied viewings.
Pink and Cow provided a copy of their Property Information Form which included a box to check if an accompanied viewing was necessary. The form stated that this would raise the level of commission to 0.75%. It also provided a copy of the sales contract which stated, “Where a representative of the Agent is required to accompany the viewing of the property which leads to the sale the Commission Fee will be 0.75% of the final sale price upon exchange of contracts or £1,000, whichever is greater”.
Pink and Cow said that it did not market or advertise an accompanied viewing service because it was not part of the usual business practice. If a customer requested an accompanied viewing service, this would be assessed on a case by case basis and in general, Pink and Cow would attempt to deter customers from this course.
Pink and Cow said it accepted that the website stated “We’re in the perfect position to show the right buyers around your property” and said that this was a developer issue and was meant to read “We’re in the perfect position to show the right buyers your property”.
The ASA considered that consumers would not necessarily interpret the claim “Sell your home for 0.5%” by an online estate agent to mean that the service included accompanied viewings. We acknowledged that online estate agents offered a different service to high street estate agents and that in general, an average consumer would know that they would not necessarily receive the same service that they would receive from a high street estate agent, including accompanied viewings.
However, we considered that a number of the statements on the web page implied that Pink and Cow were offering a service that was similar to the service given by a high street estate agent. It stated “We’re in the perfect position to show the right buyers around your property”. We considered that, taken with the claim “Sell your home for 0.5%”, this would suggest to consumers that an accompanied viewing service was included. It also stated that it was a “Local Online Estate Agent” that provided “the full, local customer facing service of a local estate agent” and that it provided “The Full Service” and below, that “The High Street Estate Agents and Online Estate Agents just can’t keep up”. We considered that these statements contributed to an overall impression that the service offered by Pink and Cow was a combination of both an online estate agent and a high street estate agent. In that context we considered the fact that the 0.5% fee did not included accompanied viewings was material information which should have been included in the ad. Because that information was not included we therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification) and 3.17 3.17 Price statements must not mislead by omission, undue emphasis or distortion. They must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication. (Prices).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Pink and Cow to amend their website so that it was clear that the claim “Sell your home for 0.5%” did not include an accompanied viewing.