More property firms rapped over misleading ads

The advertising watchdog is making a clear statement to property firms about making unsubstantitated claims and charging hidden fees.

Recent rulings have thrown the lettings industry in to disarray after the Advertising Standards Authority demanded property details handed to tenants should include details of charges made by agents.

Now, adverts are banned by a letting agent bragging they were the number one firm in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, for taking the most landlord instructions and letting the most properties every month.

Doorknobs, the agent, claimed they took their figures from online property portal Rightmove, but the ASA ruled the claims breached advertising standards.

“Saying the agent was the “No 1 lettings agent in the Tunbridge Wells area” would be seen as a claim of market leadership, which equated to a claim that they had let more properties than their competitors and we noted that that was a claim that had also been made explicitly in the ad,” said the ASA.

“We considered that neither the number of new listings nor the amount of available stock would necessarily reflect the number of successful lettings per agent and therefore that data could not constitute an accurate representation of market leadership.

“In addition, we considered that data from Rightmove was not sufficient to substantiate any of the “No 1” claims in the ad because, despite its popularity, it was not necessarily used by all agents and did not necessarily accurately represent all properties that were available to let in an area at any given time.”

Another agent was also rapped for flouting advertising standards.

DSSCribs, a web site for rental properties accepting tenants on benefits failed to respond to the ASA investigation into a complaint that advertising did not point out that charges to 070 numbers incurred extra phone charges. The complainant also doubted the adverts were for genuine rental properties.

The ASA upheld the complaint on the grounds the lack of information about call charges was misleading to potential tenants.

The ASA also branded the site as a possible scam.

“We understood that the complainant doubted that the properties in the listings were genuine because when she telephoned DSSCribs to enquire about viewing the properties, the representative would not disclose the name of the lettings agency to her and she was told that someone would call her back, but they did not,” said the ASA.

“She was also kept on the phone for over 30 minutes, was on hold for some of that time and was charged for the call at a premium rate. Because we had not seen any evidence to demonstrate that the properties listed were genuine, we concluded that the listings on the website had not been substantiated and were misleading.”

The complaint was upheld and DSSCribs was ordered not to run the listings on their web site and that advertising must include details about premium rate phone charges in future.


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