The estate agent who is refusing to abide by a decision of the Advertising Standards Authority is now demanding details of any penalties or other course of action.
Chris Wood of PDQ, an agency based at Helston in Cornwall, said in a tweet and a blog post that customers of Purplebricks and other online agents have lost money. The ASA ordered Wood to remove the claims, stating they were misleading.
Wood - whose justification for his claims centred on very localised data about a part of Cornwall - refused to comply, although went on record saying: “I need to make it very clear that these local area results may not reflect a true National picture.”
The ASA then issued a statement last month saying that as Wood had not complied with its decision, it was passing the issue to the NTSEAT.
Wood, meanwhile, claimed that his local Cornwall Council Trading Standards department were handling the issue - although this body made it clear to Estate Agent Today that it was not doing so and had “no active involvement” in the issue.
Now Wood has written to the Committee for Advertising Practice - a sister organisation to the ASA, with responsibility for writing advertising codes of practice - and he has copied his correspondence to the NTSEAT and the Cornwall Council Trading Standards division.
In his email to the trio, dated August 10 and seen by Estate Agent Today, Wood says:
“It has now been twenty working days since this matter was apparently passed to NTSEAT for action or comment which is outside of the normal time one might expect the ASA or NTSEAT to respond.
“As previously mentioned, it does not appear to be standard practice based on the information on the ASA code/ website and, to my knowledge, is the first time the ASA has passed a case direct to NTSEAT bypassing a companies [sic] own local Trading Standards team via Camden TSOs’ and I ask again, why has the ASA seemingly decided to break with its own conventions in this matter?
“To date, I have received no indication whether this case has been passed to NTSEAT, Camden TSO, Cornwall TSO or, whether any further action is being taken at all. Can you please clarify what has happened/ is happening or, is not going to happen as the case may be and, a timescale?
In addition, Wood’s letter to CAP, NTSEAT and Cornwall Council then goes on to make allegations against Purplebricks and its approach to ASA decisions, and about the quality of data produced by ZPG.
In earlier correspondence from CAP, the organisation told Wood that “this matter can be quickly resolved if you agree to comply with the ruling” and offered a “free and confidential bespoke advice service about any future claims you may wish to make.”
CAP also set out that if agreement between the ASA and Wood was not possible, the matter would be passed to NTSEAT for further action.
The CAP correspondence says: “There is nothing unusual in the most specialised Trading Standards department taking up a backstop case but - to stress again - this is only mentioned because it would be seriously remiss of me not to advise of our options in the event of non-compliance, which I hope will not be necessary. Our much preferred outcome is that you agree to comply with the ruling so we can draw this matter to a close.”
The ASA last month told EAT that it has a number of sanctions at its disposal if Wood refused to make the requested changes.
Firstly the authority’s compliance team itself can approach to try to secure his cooperation to bring 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.
A National Trading Standards spokesperson told EAT yesterday: “We can confirm that we have received the referral from the Advertising Standards Authority relating to PDQ Estates. Following this we are now reviewing the referral to determine the next steps.”