An estate agency has been ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority not to use an advertisement on its website and Facebook site after a dispute over the existence of a ‘physical’ branch office.
The ban also applies to a disputed statement referring to the agency’s sales record.
The issue concerns the website for the agency Leftmove in north west England; a rival firm, Farrell Heyworth, contacted the ASA to dispute two claims.
One was seen on Facebook in November last year, stating that "... you can now find us in 12 locations!" followed by a list of locations with a different phone number alongside each one, including a 'Poulton Branch’.
In reality, however, Leftmove had no local presence in Poulton-le-Fylde through a fully operational branch.
As a result the ASA states: “We considered, in that context, that consumers might understand that the branch would be staffed by individuals with expertise and knowledge of the local area. We considered that a photograph on the 'Our Branches' page of Leftmove's website contributed to this understanding. We acknowledged that the services Leftmove offered were provided by a serviced office in Poulton-le-Fylde. However, because they did not have a fully operational branch or property agents based in the area, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”
The second disputed claim, seen on the agency’s website in January this year, that it was "Official Market Leaders ... In 2017 we sold more in PR4 than any of our competitors. During the period 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2017 we successfully sold more properties in the PR4 postcode than any other PR4 Agent. Source: Rightmove Intel”.
In response to the ASA query, Leftmove provided a spreadsheet from Rightmove that showed properties ‘sold’ in the PR4 postcode between January 2017 and December 2017 - but it did not include any data on the performance of rival companies.
But the ASA says: ”We considered Leftmove should provide comparative evidence showing that they had achieved more completed sales on properties in the PR4 area than their competitors. Although Leftmove provided a spreadsheet showing their purported sales figures for the PR4 area in 2017 there was no data about their competitors against which this could be assessed. We also understood that not all sales agreed on properties were eventually finalised as completed sales and considered that in order to support the ad’s claims, the evidence should relate to completed sales.”
It continued: ”Because we had not been provided with sufficient evidence, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.”