An estate agency has been fined after a trading standards team accused it of making misleading statements on its website.
Warwickshire county council’s trading standards department says that in 2015 the website of Stephen Parry and Company Ltd, a Leamington Spa agency, falsely stated that the company had membership of both the National Association of Estate Agents and the National Association of Valuers and Auctioneers.
One of the company’s directors, Stephen Parry, had previously been a fellow of both associations but his membership lapsed in 2013.
The council’s trading standards officers say that as members of these bodies are governed by professional codes of practice, such a statement could have influenced consumers in their choice of estate agency.
“This is why it is so important that websites remain accurate” the trading standards team say in a statement.
“When so much of our shopping is now carried out online, it is more important than ever that websites offering goods and services are accurate and consumers can have confidence in the information they provide and the claims they make” says a spokesman for the authority.
At Nuneaton Magistrates Court, Stephen Parry and Company Ltd pleaded guilty to two offences of engaging in a commercial practice which was a misleading action under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
A representative for the company told the court that Stephen Parry had been the first ever student member of the NAEA, had previously been a member of the NAEA and NAVA, and had a degree in estate management, so was clearly an experienced estate agent.
The company was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £1,911 costs and a £100 victim surcharge, a total of £3,011. The business’ website has now been updated.
“When businesses claim to be members of these organisations when they are not, it is detrimental to all those who are genuine members” says David Oliver, head of regulation at the National Federation of Property Professionals.
Estate Agent Today has asked Stephen Parry & Co for its comments.
Earlier this month the NAEA warned another agency that it was misleading the public by using the association logo without being a member.