A company spotlighted by EAT last year has been banned by the advertising industry watchdog from making certain claims.
PropertyWikia made promises of rich commissions and said it would pay out compensation if a property listed failed to sell within 12 weeks.
But now complaints about PropertyWikia have been upheld, after the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that it had failed to prove that it really did make the payouts.
An unnamed complainant had challenged whether various different claims made by PropertyWikia, part of the ‘RMV group’, were misleading and could be challenged.
The claims were:
1. “Each property listed for sale – Earns YOU a £2,000.00 GBP once-off sales commission
2. “Each property listed for rent – Earns YOU a £100.00 GBP once-off rentals commission
3. “If we don’t sell a listing within 12 weeks, we’ll pay you £100.00 GBP compensation every week until we do!”
4. “This is your opportunity to earn ‘£250,000.00 GBP in just 25 weeks’ with NO selling, risk, experience, knowledge, special skills or referring required”; and
5. The income is “guaranteed against failure”.
PropertyWikia was given the chance to respond, and provided the ASA with details of the total numbers of properties that were going into negotiation, were under offer or were further advanced in the sales cycle from July to November 2011.
It explained to the ASA that PropertyWikia was relatively new and that the website took three and a half years to develop. It said the business was launched in 2010 and it took its first paid-up affiliate registration on July 1, 2011. Since then, it had not had an affiliate sale from listings made by the resources of an affiliate and that, to date, there had been fewer than 800 affiliates in the business.
It told the ASA that once a property had sold, commission payment would be paid out 30 days from the end of the month the property was sold in.
PropertyWikia said that while their affiliate programme was only launched in July 2011, property listings had commenced later and most of the listings that were made were done as a PAL listing (Partial Affiliate Listing) that required completion by the physical owner.
It said that there were currently no listings older than 12 weeks and therefore, to date, it had not paid anyone £100 in compensation. PropertyWikia also said that no affiliates had been with them for more than six months in order to reach the 25-week point.
PropertyWikia confirmed it had been asked by some affiliates when commission would be paid and had also been asked about guaranteed payouts, how they were validated and when they would be due if validation occurred.
However, it also said it had not received any complaints concerning non-payment of commission or compensation because no sale had resulted from an affiliate. It said that the £100 compensation was paid out on the same basis as the commission payments, but only when a £2,000 threshold had been reached. PropertyWikia said it had refunded just over £18,750 back to affiliates who decided to opt out and supplied the ASA with some refund examples from Paypal.
However, the ASA upheld all five complaints.
The ASA said it noted PropertyWikia’s response that their first affiliate joined the website on July 1, 2011, and, up to the present date, there was no record of any compensation or commission being paid to affiliates, nor had anyone earned ‘£250,000.00 GBP in just 25 weeks’ as claimed on the website.
The ASA said it also noted that both commission and compensation would only be paid to affiliates once a £2,000 threshold had been reached but did not consider that this was suitably qualified, as the page where the claims appeared was not linked to the terms and conditions page on the website.
The ASA said that although it had asked for contact details of affiliates in order to establish whether they were owed commission or compensation, PropertyWikia did not supply any details.
Nor had PropertyWikia supplied the ASA with ‘a better understanding of how the affiliate system worked’.
The ASA said that PropertyWikia had not supplied any evidence of affiliates who had so far benefited from the scheme or made any money from it.
This is how EAT covered the story, in a special report, last September.
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