A poster for Notting Hill Genesis Shared Ownership, seen on the London Underground on 25 September 2018, featured text which stated "I own a 2 bedroom apartment and pay less per month than my friends pay to rent a room in a flatshare!".
The complainant, who understood that only a proportion of the property was owned, challenged whether the claim "I own a 2 bedroom apartment" was misleading.
Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) said customer feedback relating to Shared Ownership was that the product was complicated. They worked with specialist legal and financial advisers to ensure a customer got a fully supported experience when going through the process of buying a Shared Ownership home. That contributed to an educated purchasing decision and they felt it was inappropriate to enter a potentially complex level of detail in the ad.
NHG said their objectives were to introduce who they were and what they do for prospective customers. The headline they used was paraphrased from a direct customer quote used in a case developed to promote Shared Ownership at one of their developments. They said Shared Ownership was a part-buy, part-rent home ownership option designed to make buying and owning a home more affordable. Owners took ownership of a long lease and title to the property which reflected the portion of the percentage of value of the home they bought.
NHG said Shared Ownership Leaseholders had been described as home owners by government, housing trusts, trade bodies and other providers of the scheme since the 1980s. They provided the government definition of the product, which said that although the property was not owned outright initially, the shared owner took on the usual responsibilities of a full owner-occupier. NHG also said the small print stated that the claim related to a Shared Ownership purchase and that criteria applied. All three calls to action in the ad directed consumers to content on their website or to call them for further information.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “I own a 2 bedroom apartment” alongside text which stated “and pay less per month than my friends pay to rent a room in a flatshare!” as a comparison between the monthly cost of paying rent to a landlord for a room in a shared home and the monthly cost of paying a mortgage on a property, rather than describing any more complex arrangement. That impression was furthered by the fact that the words “I own” and “pay less per month” were bolded and by additional text which stated “HOME OWNERSHIP STARTS WITH US”. The reference to Shared Ownership in small print only was not sufficient to override that impression.
Because the ad did not make clear that the advertised service was a Shared Ownership scheme, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.10 3.10 Qualifications must be presented clearly.
CAP has published a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Notting Hill Genesis to ensure that their future advertising of Shared Ownership properties made clear the nature of the scheme.