Estate agency Darlows of Llanishen, part of the Spicerhaart group, put out two leaflets in May 2011 where it claimed it ‘advertised more extensively than our competitors both online and offline’ and declared themselves a ‘multi award-winning agent.’
Kelvin Francis estate agents challenged the adverts, arguing that other local estate agents advertised more than Darlows and the claim that the “UK’s largest independent estate agency” was “multi award-winning” could not be substantiated as it had only won one runner-up place in recent years.
It also challenged the term ‘independent” as being misleading as Darlows is part of the Spicerhaart group, a limited company owned by shareholders.
The ASA noted Darlows had made the comparative claim in error and had taken steps to prevent it from being repeated in future ads. “We considered that the claim ‘We advertise more extensively than our competitors both online and offline …’ had not been substantiated and concluded that the ad breached the Code.”
The ASA also noted Darlows had supplied documentary evidence which showed they had won two industry awards in the past five years. The ASA said: “However, we considered that the average consumer would interpret the text “multi award-winning agent” as a claim that Darlows had won more than two awards in recent years and therefore concluded that the claim was misleading.
“The overall impression of the ad was that Darlows was itself a trading name under the Darlows estate agency group and that Darlows was therefore independent from any other estate agency business or group. We therefore concluded that because the advert did not make sufficiently clear that Darlows was a trading name for the larger Spicerhaart estate agency group, the claim “The UKs largest independent Estate Agency” was misleading.”
In a separate adjudication, the ASA has also banned a TV advert from pay-day loan service, WageDayAdvance.
The advert, which was presented in the style of a news report, said: ‘Kim, a teacher from Aberdeen, wanted to avoid her bank’s unauthorised overdraft fees, so she borrowed £70 at a cost of £20.65 payable on her next pay day. Nice!’
Large on-screen text read: ‘SHE BORROWED £70 AT A COST OF £20.65’.
On-screen text at the bottom of the screen during the advert read: ‘£80 loan for 28 days = £23.60 charges. Total of £103.62 repayable after 28 days in a single payment. REPRESENTATIVE APR = 2814.2%.’
Nineteen complainants did not believe the superimposed text was legible and objected that the ad was misleading. One complainant challenged whether the APR was sufficiently prominent in the ad.
The ASA noted that the superimposed text complied with the BCAP guidelines in terms of size and duration of hold. “We noted the complainants said they were unable to read the text, and that many described it as ‘squashed’. Because the superimposed text was not presented clearly, and contained information that we considered could be material to a consumer’s transactional decision, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
“We noted that the superimposed text that included the APR appeared throughout the majority of the ad, and was on-screen when the voice-over and larger on-screen text referred to the cost of the credit. However, we also noted that this was the only place in which the APR appeared during the ad, that the presenter did not refer to the APR and that the superimposed text was much smaller than the on-screen text featuring the cost of credit. We therefore concluded that the ad breached the Code.”
The advert must not appear again in its current form.