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Estate agency banned from taking credit for historic testimonial

A website claim by the London estate agency Moveli has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority after a complaint from a rival firm.

In May this year Moveli asserted on its website that: “Moveli connects you with friendly, professional estate agents who have years of experience selling property in your local area, probably even on your street”. 

Also on its website it stated: “Moveli agents are seasoned professionals who’ve been selling property in your area for years”.

It then went on to the specifics about one named agent operating in the Battersea and Clapham areas, saying: “With over 16 years experience selling property in Southwest London, [the agent] is a seasoned professional when it comes to achieving the highest price for your home. Being a local dad living 'Between the Commons' for over a decade, his intimate knowledge of the Battersea & Clapham property market and the area itself is a great advantage when negotiating with prospective buyers”.

There was also a testimonial from a ‘Mrs L D’ stating: “[The agent] tenaciously held on to our buyer, who was in a chain, for many months. He is very knowledgable [sic] about the market and completely trustworthy. I was so pleased with the service he gave me and I have no hesitation in recommending him”.

However another firm, Courteney Estate Agents, complained to the ASA, believing that the estate agent in question had been working for Moveli and in the Battersea and Clapham housing market for one month only.

After the ASA investigated, it was told by Alpinum Ltd - the firm trading as Moveli - that the testimonial was genuine and from a past client of the agent at his previous employer. It provided a signed copy with the reviewer’s contact details. 

Alpine told the ASA that it only included parts of the testimonial that related to the agent himself, as the product or service being advertised, and that if the review related to an aspect of the service that was only made possible due to his previous employer’s involvement, it would be wrong for them to publish it.

Moveli said the agent, now working for Moveli, would provide the same style of service to his clients; therefore consumers relying on that testimonial when deciding to choose him, and by extension Moveli, would not have been misled. 

“They said it was normal for websites to feature product reviews from people who bought the same product on a different website and that their agents had the right to publish testimonials about themselves and people’s opinions of them on the Moveli, or any other, website” says a statement from the ASA, adding that Moveli said it would ensure reviews from past clients were explicitly about the agent in question, their character and the style of service they personally delivered.

However, the ASA upheld the complaint saying it “considered that consumers would be likely to infer, without qualification to the contrary, that the testimonial featured in the ad related to the agent’s work while employed by Moveli.”

The authority continues: “We understood, however, that the testimonial related to his previous employment at a different estate agent. We noted Moveli’s argument that the difference in employer did not render the testimonial misleading because he would continue to provide the same style of service at Moveli. However, we consider that the positive attributes referred to in the review, such as his ability to hold onto a buyer, were likely to be affected, at least to some degree, by the business in which he was working, and it could not be assumed that they would be the same when he moved employer.

“We concluded that, because the testimonial did not relate to the agent’s employment at Moveli, they were misleading.”

The ASA says the ad must not appear again in its current form, concluding: “We told Moveli not to claim or imply that testimonials about their employees related to their work at Moveli when that was not the case.”

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