For the second successive week the Advertising Standards Authority has banned an online estate agency’s advertisement.
Last week it was HouseSimple and this week it is Connells-owned Hatched.
The latest dispute surrounds the Hatched website which listed amongst its local agents one based at “Hatched House”, giving an address in Pudsey, West Yorkshire.
There was a complaint from Homebuyers Property Services claiming that it understood that the stated address was not, as suggested, a legitimate business address, and thus raised a challenge to the ASA as to whether the ad was misleading.
In response to enquiries by the authority, Hatched said it had Local Property Consultants based in 16 different locations. These LPCs worked from home “when they were not otherwise engaged elsewhere”; Hatched also confirmed that one of its LPCs lived at “Hatched House”.
The agency claimed the purpose of including the address in the advertisement was to provide customer service and sell property locally.
However, the ASA says it is unconvinced.
It says with the first line of the address listed in the website advertisement being “Hatched” and the second line being “Hatched House” there was the suggestion that the property was a conventional business premise that had been purposefully named to reflect that.
“We considered that the reference to the property as a ‘branch’ and a list of opening hours beneath the address, strongly implied that they had a conventional public-facing business address at that location. We also considered that unless there was information to the contrary most consumers would assume that Hatched’s employees were based at a physical branch” says an ASA statement.
“However, we understood that the address listed was an employee’s home address, and not a physical branch. ...Most consumers would nevertheless expect from the ad that the address was a physical branch. Because there was no information to indicate the address was not a physical branch or that Hatched’s staff worked from home we therefore considered the ad was misleading” says the authority.
The ASA has told Hatched that the ad must not appear in that form again.