Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

CAP understands that prices for new build and off plan homes can sometimes vary quite significantly, depending on the final fixtures and fittings chosen by the buyer.

Make additional upgrades clear

In 2012 the ASA upheld a complaint about an ad for a new development which included an image of the bathroom. Text stated “image from actual show home”. The image featured a number of additional upgrades, such as tiled bath panels and chrome finishes. The ASA considered that whilst consumers might expect the layout to vary between properties, they would expect the finish as featured to be available at the price advertised. Because it was not clear that the upgrades were only available at an additional cost, they concluded the ad was misleading (Taylor Wimpey UK Ltd, 14 November 2012).

Ensure qualifications are included

Developers often use photographs of show homes finished to a high specification to illustrate a new development. The Code states that prices must relate to the product featured in the marketing communication (Rule 3.17), and marketers are likely to fall foul of the Code if they feature an unqualified ‘from’ price relating to a standard property alongside a photograph of a more expensive home.

If there are no available images for the property advertised at the “from” price, e.g. because the property is being sold off-plan, it is acceptable to use an image featuring upgrades that could be purchased, provided that the price is clearly prefixed with “from” and qualifying text is placed next to the image stating “image includes optional upgrades at additional cost”. If the cost of the additional upgrade is known, it should be made clear. For example “from £90,000, home shown £95,000”.

The qualifying text must be equally prominent to the price claim and positioned adjacent to the image. If multiple images are shown, the qualifying text should be immediately after the ‘from’ price. Where available, prices must to relate to the image shown.

Make additional costs clear

Code rule 3.18 states that quoted prices must include non-optional taxes, duties, fees and charges that apply to all or most buyers. Rule 3.19 goes on to state that some fees can’t reasonably be calculated in advance, because they will depend on the consumer’s circumstances, but the fact that these fees apply or might apply needs to be made immediately clear. 

Marketers should make clear in ads of any additional or ongoing costs such as service charges. They should also include where possible, how thes are calculated and if these may change. The ASA considered a complaint for an ad that included an ‘estimated service charge’ for a new build property. The marketer changed how this was calculated which resulted in significantly different service charges from those estimated, and was therefore considered to be misleading (Ballymore Development Management Ltd t/a Ballymore, 15 August 2018)

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