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Watchdog slams GetAgent over misleading website claims

Controversial website content by the high profile website GetAgent must never appear again, according to the ad industry watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority took the drastic action following a complaint by agency RE/MAX.

The GetAgent website homepage stated: “Find the best Estate Agent for you. See which agents will do the best job of selling your home, based on past performance” and the text underneath stated “Impartial recommendations”. Text further down the page stated “Independent: The agents listed are based on performance data from the Land Registry. Agents don’t pay to appear”.


Another web page included a shortlist of recommended agents, viewed by a user after inputting an address. 

The first three listed agents included information on the average sale time; the asking price change; the fee quote; and the services the agency offered. Underneath each listing, a green box stated “Request Free Valuation”. 

The bottom three listings on the shortlist included information about the average sales time, the number of properties listed in the last six months and the asking price change. It stated no data was available for the fee quote or services offered by those agents, and the “Request Free Valuation” button was also not available. 

An orange box alongside the text “Most Experienced” appeared across one of the listings.

However, the RE/MAX agency challenged whether the top three search results on the shortlisted agents page were more like marketing communications; and whether GetAgent’s claims about “impartial recommendations” and “agents don’t pay to appear” were misleading and could be substantiated.

After an investigation, the Advertising Standards Authority found that “agents registered with GetAgent were required to pay a fee based on the final selling price of the property for every successful referral arranged by GetAgent. Because GetAgent received a fee in those cases, we considered the listings in the ad for those agents registered with GetAgent were marketing communications. 

“We [the ASA] acknowledged that consumers could order the shortlist in any way they wished, and that, if the default order was changed, agents signed up with GetAgent would not necessarily appear at the top of the search listings. However, as GetAgent could only facilitate the homeowner’s valuation request with those agents, and GetAgent received a fee for every successful referral, we considered these listings were still marketing communications, even if they were no longer appearing in a preferential position.”

The ASA also said the website content did not make clear upfront its commercial intent and concluded it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication. The ad therefore breached the authority’s advertising code.

The authority went on to say that the default order of the search results was not based on objective data or ordered from most to least suitable agent, as consumers would have expected. 

“We therefore considered the mechanics behind the way in which the search listings appeared in the ad were insufficient to substantiate the claims ‘agents don’t pay to appear’ and ‘impartial recommendations’ … Because GetAgent only allowed consumers to directly contact those agents who had paid a fee, and only published a full data set for those agents, we further considered that the search listings in the ad did not represent ‘impartial recommendations’.”

“We therefore concluded that the claims ‘impartial recommendations’ and ‘agents don’t pay to appear’ were misleading and could not be substantiated.”

The ASA concluded that: “The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told GetAgent Ltd to ensure that their future ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications and that the commercial intent was made clear. We also told them to not to claim that they offered impartial recommendations or that agents did not pay to appear if that was not the case.”


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