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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Trading Standards to probe house raffle problems

Future complaints about property raffles by individual home owners seeking to avoid estate agency fees will in future be handled by Trading Standards.

Until now many complaints about these raffles have been submitted to the Advertising Standards Authority but these are now to go to the National Trading Standards Estate and Letting Agency Team.

The ASA has seen a rise in complaints in this area and has received 90 complaints about property raffles since 2015. Following a number of investigations into these ads and in several cases, subsequent ad bans, any complaints of this kind will now be referred to the NTSELAT team.

Running a property raffle could ultimately be a legal issue which falls under the Estate Agency Act 1979, so promoters have to follow certain rules including adhering to Anti Money Laundering Regulations and membership to an approved redress provider.

NTSELAT will now look into this issue when complaints are referred by the ASA, and act as referral point to direct complaints to the body best equipped to deal with them - for example, the Gambling Commission in the event of the raffle being an illegal lottery. 

If found to be in breach, local Trading Standards departments can take appropriate enforcement action or, if the trader is found to be operating under the definition of estate agency work, NTSELAT can investigate.

Previously, ASA rulings have come into effect following the closure of competitions and the prize awarded is never actually the house as advertised, but a cash alternative of lesser value. If it’s not explained clearly enough it may be seen to be a misleading action under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

“Raffles offering a property as a prize could violate the requirements of the Estate Agents Act 1979, as the promoter of the raffle could be classed as doing estate agency work. If this is the case, they will be required to comply with all the rules governing estate agents including declaring a personal interest and keeping appropriate records” explains James Munro, senior manager at NTSELAT.

“There is a clear difference between winning a house worth a specified sum and winning a much lower amount of money. In many cases these distinctions are not clear. 

“Consumers buying a ticket need clear and truthful information on what happens if not enough tickets are sold. If you have a complaint about an advert for a property raffle you should make a complaint via the ASA or, if you have paid for a ticket with no chance of winning the prize, report this to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.”

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