ASA Adjudication on Ecotricity Group Ltd
Ecotricity Group Ltd
30 January 2013
Internet (on own site)
Number of complaints:
A website for a wind farm developer, www.ecotricity.co.uk, featured a click through link to a document entitled "Harringe Brooks Newsletter March 2012". Claims within the newsletter stated "Will the wind park affect the value of my house? The most recent independent study by the Royal Institute [sic] of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) showed that wind parks have no long-term detrimental effect on house prices. It does say that there can be a temporary dip during the planning process, due to natural concerns about the 'un-known'...".
The complainant challenged whether the claim "The most recent independent study by the Royal Institute [sic] of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) showed that wind parks have no long-term detrimental effect on house prices" was misleading and could be substantiated, because he understood that study was out-dated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Ecotricity Group Ltd (Ecotricity) believed the claim could be substantiated and was not misleading. They said the report was the most recent study by RICS on the matter of wind farms and house prices and they were not aware of any later report which invalidated or contradicted its findings. They said it was widely considered by the renewable energy industry as the most comprehensive independent report on the issue of whether or not house prices were affected by wind turbines in the UK.
They said that in compiling the newsletter, they had taken into account several reports and a presentation by the CAP Code Policy team and provided copies. They believed the reports supported the findings of the RICS 2007 study.
They understood that the complainant had referred to certain decisions of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) regarding applications by homeowners for the re-banding of their council tax. They were aware of a small number of occasions where homeowners had argued that their council tax band should be reduced citing proximity to a wind farm as a factor in the alleged devaluation of their property. They understood that in many such cases, there were several other factors involved. They said they were not aware of any substantive evidence that the proximity to a wind farm was the sole deciding factor for the VOA decision to re-band a given property.
We understood that the 2007 study was the most recent study carried out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) on the relationship between wind farms and house prices. We considered the study and noted that it did not conclude that wind farms had no long-term detrimental effect on house prices. The study concluded that there was a limited linear relationship between house prices and distance from wind turbines and it noted that because of the limited data available, the findings required a degree of caution. Because the claim did not accurately represent the findings of the study, we concluded that it was misleading and had not been substantiated.
Furthermore, we noted that the study was five years old and no longer appeared on the RICS website. The RICS website contained a guide on wind farms dated 6 March 2012 which stated "Can wind farms affect property prices? There is no definitive answer to this question ..." and cited evidence both for and against the proposition.
We noted that the claim in the newsletter was preceded by the question "Will the wind park affect the value of my house?" and considered that the statements read together implied that wind farms had no long-term detrimental effect on house prices. We noted RICS' current position that there was no definitive answer to the question of whether wind farms affected property prices. We also noted that one of the reports provided by Ecotricity, a parliamentary paper entitled "Wind farms - Distance from housing" dated 5 July 2012, stated "Do wind farms actually reduce house prices? Studies are not at all agreed on this point, with some studies arguing that house prices actually increased after erection of a wind farm. Some opponents of wind farms allege that wind farms reduce nearby house prices while some supporters argue the opposite. The truth is that there is no conclusive evidence with regard to the relationship of wind farms and house prices ...". We therefore considered that the current position was that there was no conclusive or definitive position as to the effect of wind farms on property prices.
For the reasons set out above, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.
The claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The claim must not appear again in its current form.