The Advertising Standards Authority says its compliance team is considering its next steps following the refusal of estate agency PDQ Estates to abide by a ruling - while the agent at the heart of the row is now turning his fire on ZPG.
Yesterday we published extensive details of the ASA’s ruling on a tweet and a blog entry posted by PDQ owner and long-time anti-online agency campaigner Chris Wood.
The posts, last year made claims about the percentage of homes sold in parts of Cornwall - where PDQ is based - by online agency Purplebricks; the blog on the agency’s website made claims about half a billion pounds being wasted by vendors on online agencies.
The ASA investigation examined extensive documentation provided by PDQ; the complaints were upheld and both the tweet and the blog entry were deemed misleading.
However, Wood says he is neither amending nor removing the misleading statements as requested by the ASA.
In a further post on his blog he now says: “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” and he makes accusations about what he calls “ZPG’s unreliable data.”
However, in this latest blog Wood also says: “I need to make it very clear that these local area results may not reflect a true National picture”.
Now the Advertising Standards Authority is considering its next steps against Wood. In a statement to Estate Agent Today an authority spokesman says: “Following a published ruling against PDQ Estates for misleading advertising we will assess whether the advertiser has brought its claims into line with the rules. We are passing this matter over to our Compliance team who will consider next steps.”
The authority has a number of sanctions at its disposal if Wood refuses to make the requested changes - although it says these are some way away, and that its primary wish is to ensure all disputed advertisements are amended to remove misleading statements.
Firstly the compliance team itself can approach advertisers to try to secure their cooperation to bring their claims in line with ASA rules.
Secondly, as set out on the ASA’s website, it can work with media owners to refuse an advertiser access to advertising space, working with search engines to remove paid-search ads as well as placing ASA ads in search engine results highlighting the advertiser’s non-compliance. There can also be the withdrawal of what the ASA calls “trading privileges” such as Royal Mail bulk mail discounts.
The ASA website says: “One of our most persuasive sanctions is bad publicity – an advertiser’s reputation can be badly damaged if it is seen to be ignoring the rules designed to protect consumers.”
Its final sanction is to refer advertisers to other bodies - in this case Trading Standards - for further action.
“Additionally, any advertisements that break the Code are disqualified from industry awards, denying advertisers and the agencies that created the ads the opportunity to showcase their work” the ASA says.
In his latest blog, Wood says of his claims about ZPG’s data: “ZPG have been contacted about this matter and further action may follow.”
Wood has told Estate Agent Today he could not reveal what that action might be, but he has spoken with ZPG legal advisers “about the robustness of [ZPG’s] data.”