The Advertising Standards Authority has given the green light to an circular which provoked complaints suggesting it deliberately did not appear like marketing material.
A circular for Property Purchased Fast was received in October, showing the company name and logo "Property Purchased Fast". The text stated "Sorry we missed you".
Underneath was a reference number which appeared to be handwritten, then the text "Could you please contact us - Can you please call Adam [appeared to be handwritten] on 0161 XXX XXXX or [mobile number, which appeared to be handwritten] ... We want to offer you a FREE Valuation on your home. We are a genuine property fund looking to purchase homes in your area regardless of condition or price. We Can [sic] offer you - Up to 100% of the Value for your home - FREE Valuation - FREE Legal Fees - No Estate Agency Fees - A time scale [sic] to suit you - Any condition accepted - 100% Regulated - Five Star Costumer [sic] Rating - Discreet and confidential [all with a box next to them which appeared to be hand ticked]".
More text stated "Regulated by the Property Redress Scheme. We are also registered with the ICO (Data Protection)”.
The second side of the circular was divided into three boxes, headed with "Reasons why hundreds of home sellers are turning to us"; "HOW IT WORKS"; and "WE DEAL WITH 100'S OF HAPPY CUSTOMERS EVERY MONTH!" respectively, containing explanatory text or testimonials.
However, two recipients of the circular contacted the ASA to challenge whether the ad was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
Property Purchased Fast told the ASA that the extensive list of information on the circular - such as the offer of a free valuation, reference to the redress scheme and testimonials from previous customers - made it clear what the material was.
The ASA says it notes that the circular used a similar colour of red to cards that informed householders that it had not been possible to deliver an item of post. However, the prominent text "Sorry we missed you" did not refer to delivery.
The ASA ruling goes on:
“We considered it could be taken to mean that a caller with a business purpose had been unable to obtain an answer, rather than that it had not been possible to deliver an item of post. We noted that the logo Property Purchased Fast appeared alongside, and that the section that followed included the text We want to offer you a FREE Valuation on your home.
“We considered those elements established that the circular was likely to have a business purpose. That was reinforced by the list of services ("FREE Valuation - FREE Legal Fees - No Estate Agency Fees," etc.) which appeared in the box underneath, and the explanatory text, testimonials from previous customers, inclusion of Property Purchased Fast's website address and references to the Property Redress Scheme and ICO that followed.
“If the consumer saw the second side first, they would see a list of features and professional services that were being offered and an explanation of how the valuation process worked, which we considered suggested there was a commercial rather than non-commercial reason for the circular. We concluded, therefore, that the circular was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and that it did not breach the Code.”