Tuesday 18 August 2020 12:54 pm

Purplebricks fined £260,000 for breach of money-laundering rules

Online estate agency Purplebricks has been fined more than £260,000 by HM Revenue & Customs for violating money-laundering rules.

Under UK regulations implemented in 2017, estate agencies are required to ensure customers are not using their business to launder money.

The legislation says estate agencies are responsible for carrying out financial checks on their clients to stop money being laundered through the buying and selling of property. 

HMRC, which is able to carry out spot checks, said Purplebricks was guilty of “failures in having the correct policies, controls and procedures, conducting due diligence and timing of verification”.

The agency is unable to appeal.

“Money laundering funds serious and organised crime and costs the UK economy billions of pounds every year,” an HMRC spokesperson said.

“We’re here to support businesses in protecting themselves from criminals who would prey on their services. That also means taking action against the minority who fail to meet their legal obligations under the regulations and in doing so invite abuse.”

Purplebricks says it has improved its practices since the fine, which relates to activity in 2018.

“This is a retrospective and historical fine that dates back to activity in 2018,” a spokesperson for the agency said. “We have since conducted a full review of our processes and have significantly improved our compliance procedures.”

The firm was founded in 2012 with the aim of competing with traditional estate agencies.

It has no branches and charges a fixed fee of £999, or £1499 in London, regardless of a sale.

Chief executive Vic Darvey has said a new pricing structure will be introduced in the autumn as the company tries to appeal to a wealthier customer.

With a focus on the UK housing market, it has a volume share of around five per cent.