There’s a new twist in the row between a Cornish agent and the Advertising Standards Authority.
The row revolves around a tweet and a blog posted in the past by Chris Wood of PDQ, an agency based at Helston in Cornwall, claiming that customers of Purplebricks and other online agents have lost money. The ASA ordered Wood to remove the claims, stating they were misleading.
Wood has refused to comply, suggesting that he was awaiting guidance on the issue from Cornwall Council Trading Standards, which he had contacted.
However, that local authority has now told Estate Agent Today that it “has no active involvement” in the issue, saying this is “solely a matter for the ASA.”
Wood’s original claims were made on the basis of very localised analysis he had undertaken, and which the ASA says is too limited to support the broader claims he makes about vendors’ losses.
Wood issued an additional blog after the ASA verdict which included the admission that “I need to make it very clear that these local area results may not reflect a true National picture.” In that statement he was also critical of ZPG data which he had used in his original analysis - he said he had spoken with ZPG's legal advisers about the data.
And in that latest blog on his agency’s website he wrote: “After consultations and advice from Cornwall trading standards office, my original blog and tweet remain published and I voluntarily placed this matter in their hands some weeks ago.”
However, Cornwall Council has now told Estate Agent Today that it has not offered any formal advice, is not involved in ASA activities, and nor will it be commenting or making any judgement on such matters in future.
“The ASA’s sanction framework provides a legally established means for dealing with such matters; therefore Cornwall Council Trading Standards would not need to be involved directly in this process” says a spokeswoman.
It goes on to tell EAT: “Whilst PDQ Estates Ltd have contacted us to make us aware of the issue, we have not issued any formal advice relating to the ruling, as this is solely a matter for the ASA. ... Cornwall TS has no active involvement in respect of this matter.”
What’s more, if the ASA at a national level ever uses Trading Standards officers to enforce its actions (as it does from time to time when advertisers refuse to accept a ruling) it is the TS division of Camden council in London that is the designated team.
Camden is seen as the lead TS office on advertising enforcement, just as Powys is seen as the lead office for the National Trading Standards Estate Agency Team. This is set out on the ASA website here - it also sets out the enforcement powers available to the ASA.
A statement from Wood to EAT says: “Cornwall TSO were made aware of this several weeks ago as I wanted to talk through my concerns and what might transpire.
"This was as I had been informed by the ASA that any case where an advertiser is non-compliant will normally be passed to their compliance team ...
"It is correct that Cornwall TSO have not yet been formally instructed, I am merely anticipating the process and, based on the discussions I had about the situation with them and legal counsel, my original blog currently remains posted (albeit slightly amended).”
You can see EAT’s original story about the controversy here.