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Express story on Brexit house price boost 'seriously inaccurate'

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has ruled that a Daily Express newspaper story - “EU Exit Boosts House Prices” - was “seriously inaccurate.”

IPSO, the independent regulator for the newspaper and magazine industry, last summer received a complaint from a Paul Haigh alleging that the Express front page lead on July 22, carrying the headline ”EU Exit Boosts House Prices”, breached the standards organisation’s Editors’ Code of Practice.

The Express’ coverage of house prices has been the subject of considerable debate in the property industry for some years; last Friday it had to carry a reference to the IPSO adjudication on its front page with a more detailed story inside.

The article at the heart of the dispute was on the newspaper’s front page last summer, and continued on an inside page. IPSO says the front page reported that “house prices rose by more than 10 per cent last month as Britain voted to leave the EU”. It said that home loan figures for June 2016 had also been the highest for eight years “as the whole country benefitted from the Brexit effect”. 

The remainder of the article stated that figures released by property consultancy Hometrack showed that property prices across major cities had risen by 10.2 per cent over the course of the year, and claimed the increase was “stronger than the 6.9 per cent year-on-year price rises seen in June 2015”.

It also said the figures showed that “buyers ignored Project Fear economic warnings in the run-up to the referendum” and that “doom-mongers predicting economic meltdown in the wake of the Brexit result have been left nonplussed by a raft of positive figures, including record levels of employment”.

The article was also published online with the headline “EU exit boosts house prices: Owners across whole country see big rises after Referendum” with a sub-heading claiming: “House prices and mortgage lending continue to rise on the back of the Brexit vote as the UK property market goes from strength to strength”. The online article did not contain the statement that house prices had risen by more than 10 per cent “last month”.

You can see the a summary of the complaint, IPSO's description of the story and its adjudication in full here; below you can see the adjudication in full:

"Following the publication of an article in The Daily Express on 22 July 2016, headlined “EU Exit Boosts House Prices”, Paul Haigh complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. 

"The complaint was upheld, and IPSO required the newspaper to publish this adjudication. In addition, as the inaccurate information appeared in the front-page headline, IPSO also required the newspaper to publish a front-page reference to this adjudication.

"The front page of the print article reported that “house prices rose by more than 10 per cent last month as Britain voted to leave the EU”. The online article, which was headlined “EU exit boosts house prices: Owners across whole country see big rises after Referendum”, did not state that house prices had risen by 10 per cent “last month”.

"The complainant said that the newspaper had inaccurately reported that the vote to leave the European Union had “boosted” house prices. He said that the house price figures relied on by the newspaper did not reflect the period following the referendum but related to the period leading up to it.

"The newspaper said that the article had reported that house prices had risen “as” Britain voted to leave the European Union, not as a result of the vote to leave. It accepted, however, that it had inaccurately stated in print that house prices had risen by 10 per cent in the “last month”; in fact, this had been an annual rise. The newspaper argued that the headline was not based on this inaccurate assertion, and should therefore be considered in relation to the corrected text, as well as the rest of the article, which had correctly reported the statistics for the year June 2015 to June 2016.

"The Committee considered that both versions of the article had given the clear impression that house prices had risen considerably as a result of the vote to leave the EU. Save for the last seven days of June 2016, all the house price data referred to in the article related to the period leading up to the referendum, and the newspaper had failed to provide any further evidence to support the headline assertion, beyond the significantly inaccurate claim that there had been a 10% rise, post-referendum, in the print article. 

"The newspaper had published seriously inaccurate information; this represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article. The complaint under Clause 1 was upheld."

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