The National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team is warning agents not to engage in portal juggling - an activity it describes as “deliberately misleading home buyers.”
A statement yesterday afternoon made clear that the practice is in breach of trading regulations and – in some cases – can be fraudulent.
As reported on Estate Agent Today in the past, portal juggling involves the deliberate removal of properties on major property portals before relisting them – often with minor differences – to make them appear new on the market.
Campaigning agent Chris Wood of PDQ in Cornwall and data consultancy Propcision have been publicising the practice for many months.
The NTSEAT statement says: “If an estate agent has relisted a property and described it as ‘new on the market’ (or implying it as such), or using re-listings as a mechanism for falsely inflating sales statistics, this would constitute an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. False representations made by an estate agent could also fall under the scope of the Fraud Act 2008.”
The trading standards team statement is accompanied by endorsements from the NAEA and two of the three mandatory redress organisations.
“Portal juggling cannot in any way be condoned, a practice that seeks to misinform, manipulate the truth, or hide inaccuracies that would influence transactional decisions is clearly in contravention of CPRs and therefore must cease” explains Mark Hayward, managing director of National Association of Estate Agents.
“It’s clear that portal juggling is a concern to many in the estate agency industry and we are today warning those estate agents involved in portal juggling that they may be breaking the law, which could lead to enforcement action from local Trading Standards authorities and prosecution” says James Munro, NTSEAT team leader.
“Estate agents and individual employees involved in this practice also face being issued with warning or prohibition orders if they have used misleading statements or made false representations about properties they are trying to sell” he continues.
“We will work closely with industry bodies to stop this unfair and misleading practice, which misleads prospective homebuyers and harms honest estate agents who conduct their business in a fair and professional manner. If you suspect an estate agent of portal juggling or spot anything suspicious on a major online portal, we urge you to report it to Citizens Advice on 03454 040506.”
Katrine Sporle of the Property Ombudsman added her voice to the statement, saying: “The TPO Code of Practice is very clear that all advertisements must be legal, decent, honest and truthful in accordance with the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing. Manipulating internet portals (and any other channels of marketing) to give the impression a property is new to the market, when it is not, is simply misleading.”
And Sean Hooker, head of redress at the Property Redress Scheme, says: “It is poor practice, unfair and could ultimately be deemed illegal. If we get complaints of these nature not only will we come down hard on the perpetrators, we will be obliged to report the matter to NTSEAT for enforcement action.”
More details can be found on www.powys.gov.uk/estateagency.