Summay of Council decision:
Two isues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A website, www.redmancasey.co.uk, for an estate agent featured text on their home page that stated, “97% of our buyers and sellers would recommend us ...”. Further text appeared in a flash banner that stated “50 YEARS ESTATE AGENCY EXPERIENCE”.
On the “CONVEYANCING” page was text that stated “... Redman Casey can happily refer you to professional and trusted local solicitors whom they have built strong relationships with, over many years ...”. Below this was a list of named solicitors that consumers could click on to be directed to their websites.
The complainant challenged whether the following claims were misleading and could be substantiated:
1. "97% of our buyers and sellers would recommend us"; and
2. “50 YEARS ESTATE AGENCY EXPERIENCE” and “over many years”.
1. Redman Casey Estate Agents Ltd stated that the claim "97% of our buyers and sellers would recommend us" first appeared in their advertising in January 2015 and was based on information that was taken from correspondence dated up to December 2014, including email, personal communications and a questionnaire, with their vendors and purchasers. They submitted a large number of customer testimonials, one of which derived from a questionnaire, and the results of a customer survey they conducted in June 2015. Redman Casey Estate Agents stated that the survey results showed that 97% of their customers would recommend their services, having only one purchaser who stated that they would not.
2. Redman Casey Estate Agents stated that the claims “50 YEARS ESTATE AGENCY EXPERIENCE” and “over many years” were based on the number of years’ experience their staff had in real estate and did not suggest that it reflected the duration of time they had been trading.
The ASA understood that the claim first appeared on Redman Casey Estate Agents’ website in January 2015 and was based on customer feedback obtained in 2014. We acknowledged the large number of testimonials Redman Casey Estate Agents provided, which all gave positive reviews about the company including a number of customers who would recommend their services. Furthermore, the survey results they provided also showed that their vendors and buyers would recommend them. However, we noted that a large proportion of the testimonials, including the one taken from the “Testimonial Questionnaire”, were provided in 2015 (between January and July), which we also considered did not demonstrate how Casey Estate Agents had obtained the 97% statistic. Furthermore, we acknowledged that the customer survey was conducted in June 2015, after we had received the complaint.
Regarding the survey results, we noted that they showed how many vendors and purchasers would recommend Redman Casey Estate Agents (100% and 88.89% respectively). We understood that they had combined the total number of vendors and purchasers who would recommend their services (35) and divided that figure against the total number of completed questionnaires they had received (36), which amounted to 97%. However, we considered that this did not accurately reflect the proportion of their buyers who would recommend their services (88.89%). Furthermore, we noted that the survey was carried out for a period of one month with a response rate of 27 sellers and 9 purchasers.
Therefore, we concluded that because Redman Casey Estate Agents had not provided robust data from customer feedback dating back to 2014, the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.
The claim breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading Advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation).
We understood that Redman Casey Estate Agents were incorporated in 2014 and acknowledged that they stated that the claims were based on the number of years’ experience their staff had in real estate. However, we noted that the claim “50 YEARS ESTATE AGENCY EXPERIENCE” was located in a flash banner underneath the text “Redman Casey Estate Agents”. Furthermore, we considered that the claim that they had built up strong relationships with solicitors “over many years” implied that the business had been trading in its current form for some years.
Therefore, we concluded that the claims misleadingly suggested that Redman Casey Estate Agents had been trading for a substantial period of time.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading Advertising).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Redman Casey Estate Agents Ltd to avoid making customer recommendation claims in the absence of adequate evidence and that their advertising must not misleadingly suggest that they have been trading for a substantial period of time.