CIELA to halt letting fees ban, expose rogue agents and combat misleading corporate adverts
Thursday 6th July 2017
CIELA, the Charter for Independent Estate and Lettings Agents, has set out its first tasks, should the organisation launch successfully on 1 October.
Subject to sufficient support and member sign-ups, its first 3 intentions are clear.
If launched on 1 October, CIELA pledges to
1. Spotlight any and all agents operating illegally
2. Prevent the lettings fees ban from being implemented
3. Aggressively pursue call-centre agents who use misleading advertisements to take non-refundable money off unsuspecting consumers.
Existing members have pledged to help spread the word and recruit new members, enough to justify a full launch on 1 October. A few Liverpool Founder Members (Logic Estates, Andrew Louis) have organised their own local get-together on Tuesday 11th, next week. Any agents interested should contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org
CIELA Founder Charles Wright confirmed that there are three possible outcomes on 1 October.
- Failure to launch due to obviously insufficient support.
- Marginal member numbers, almost but not quite enough: Members will be polled to vote on whether to accept an increase to the £35 pm membership to whatever the necessary level is to finance a full launch, and/or a possible extension of the pre-launch period, if voted for.
- Full launch: If sufficient members join up and pay their £35 pm membership subscription, launch on 1 October will be automatic.
When asked what these numbers would be, Wright said “I do not wish to reveal that at this stage, because whatever I say, it only adds to the ‘wait and see’ problem. A smaller number would lead agents to think their support is not necessary, a larger number might make people think it is unrealistic. Agents who would like the Lettings Fees Ban avoided, rogue agents exposed and call-centre agents to be forced to play fair should ask themselves if these things are worth £35pm to them or not, and if so, join now.”
Wright continued: “The passionate support we have received from our Founder members is astonishing. These small, independent agents are as determined to help their industry be seen in a fairer light as they are to make their own businesses continue to succeed, and they believe CIELA is a “last chance saloon” for quality independent agents to take control of their reputation.”
“As far as CIELA is concerned, the ball is now in the court of independent agents. We are not making a hard sell here. Either agents want a representative voice, or they do not. If they do not join in sufficient numbers, then CIELA will be put on ice on 1 October and little will have been lost, but much learnt. I have no interest in expending time and money persuading turkeys that they should not vote for Christmas.”
If any agents choose to read the Terms and Conditions of pre-launch membership, they will see that there are large incentives to be an early joiner. For example, members who join now will avoid the estimated £99 joining fee that will come into effect after 1 October.
What CIELA plans to offer in the event of successful launch, in the short term:
Free Certificate of Legal Compliance and Indemnification
This free certificate will be open to all agents (non-members included) who prove they are complying with industry regulations with documentation. Every compliant agent will receive a CIELA downloadable “Seal of Integrity” for their website and email signatures, accompanied by a consumer guarantee that indemnifies consumers against any losses incurred from fraudulent behaviour of a CIELA-approved agent.
Letting Fees Ban Halted
CIELA will halt the Letting Fees Ban: This misguided new legislation punishes all lettings businesses for the exploitative behaviour of a few unscrupulous agents. It is a clumsy hammer to crack a nut. CIELA will prevent its implementation.
Zero-tolerance of misleading corporate adverts, especially call-centre agents
Zero-tolerance approach to call-centre’ agents’ misleading adverts: Competition is healthy, provided it plays by the rules. Companies such as Purple Bricks, which have now been shown to breach Advertising Standards Authority’s guidelines (see the 5 July 2017 decision), and as such are misleading consumers, will be aggressively challenged because their adverts rely on and they profit from improper and unfair criticism of the industry.
When asked about the free registration showing legal compliance for any agent, Wright stated: “At the moment there are many small agents, operating properly, who have no way of demonstrating their compliance and therefore safety above their local, illegally operating competitors. The NAEA and ARLA membership requirements extend significantly beyond the legal minimum, and therefore are too onerous and expensive for many. This means that many perfectly legitimate agents have no way of standing apart from illegal rogues. CIELA will rectify this problem by providing a mechanism for all agents to register as compliant, completely free of charge. They will be required to provide proof of compliance via the CIELA website (declarations alone will not be sufficient) and they will be provided with the equivalent of an ABTA or IATA number that will provide protection to their customers against any loss from improper practices.”
On call-centre agents, Wright commented: “The total failure of a household brand as strong as the Easy Group in the property sector (easyProperty) is proof that the business model is not sustainable nor popular, unless misleading claims are made in advertising. Purplebricks’ shocking use of reality-distortion in its marketing is the only reason for its performance so far. Their tiny profit margins rely completely on their misleading marketing. If launched, CIELA will not rest until it has put a complete stop to the misleading marketing antics of PB and their rivals.”
We await the final outcome of our PB “commisery” complaint with interest.