Complaint upheld by Advertising Standards Authority

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint made against Leftmove Estate Agents Ltd (LEA).

The following adverts were the cause of the 2 complaints upheld by the ASA.

(a) The website www.leftmove.com, seen on 11 January 2019, stated on the home page “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”.

(b) LEA’s Facebook page, seen on 4 November 2018, stated “… 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’.

The complaint was bought by a competitor agent on the following grounds:

  1. the claim “Official Market Leaders … In 2017 we sold more in PR4 than any of our competitors” in ad (a) was misleading and could [not] be substantiated; and
  2. ad (b) misleadingly implied that LEA maintained an office in Poulton-le-Fylde.

The ASA held that ad (a) would lead consumers to understand that in 2017, LEA completed a greater number of sales in the PR4 area than any other agent operating in the area.

LEA provided spreadsheets detailing the number of properties they sold in the PR4 area however, there was no data on completed sales by competitors. Accordingly, the claim in ad (a) could not be substantiated. The ASA also understood that competitors did not list all their properties on online property portals so data could not be relied on to substantiate ad (a).

The ASA held that in the absence of sufficient evidence claim (a) had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.

The ASA upheld the second complaint in respect of ad (b). The ASA considered that consumers would understand from ad (b) that LEA had a fully operational branch in Poulton-le-Fylde. However, LEA only had a serviced office in the area with a receptionist and not a staff of individuals with expertise and knowledge of the local area. Accordingly, the ASA held that ad (b) was also misleading.

LEA were ordered not to display the ads again in their current form. Future claims in ads needed to be substantiated and future ads should not state or imply they have physical branches in locations when they do not.

Comment

It is important when advertising to distinguish between legitimate exaggerations, usually described in law as puffery, and more specific factual statements which can be demonstrated to be inaccurate. An obvious exaggeration which a customer would expect is one thing, a misstatement is quite another.

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