A regional press ad and claims on the website www.haart.co.uk:
a. A branch search on the website returned the contact details of several offices, including a telephone number and email address for each. Listings included those headed "Norwich", "Norwich Golden Triangle", "Eaton and Cringleford", "Wymondham and Hethersett", and "Costessey" and "Sprowston".
b. The regional press ad was headed "Wymondham & Hethersett 01953 469275" and text at the foot stated "haart of WYMONDHAM & HETHERSETT".
Hammondlee Ltd challenged whether the ads misleadingly implied Haart Estate Agents had offices in Cringleford, Eaton, Wymondham, Hethersett, Sprowston and Costessey, whereas they understood that was not the case.
SpicerHaart Estate Agents Ltd t/a Haart Estate Agents said the ads did not state that they had physical branches in the challenged locations, each of which was within close proximity of Norwich. They provided the approximate distances of each of the locations from the centre of Norwich and explained that although they did not have offices in any of the locations stated in the ads, they had two offices in Norwich. One of those was in the city centre, and the other in the 'Golden Triangle' area in the east of Norwich. Both had sold properties in the locations listed.
The Norwich city centre office covered Costessey and Sprowston, with the other office covering Cringleford, Eaton, Wymondham and Hethersett. Haart said the search results shown in ad (a), which gave combined results for "Eaton and Cringleford" and "Wymondham and Hethersett", each included an image of the branch, the name of its manager and an address. They said the image, manager's name and address shown for the Eaton and Cringleford, and Wymondham and Hethersett results corresponded to the Norwich Golden Triangle office and those for Costessey and Sprowston related to the city centre branch. They considered the inclusion of that information meant consumers would not be misled into believing they had branches in each of the locations named. The email addresses and phone numbers stated for each of the locations were different to those of the relevant physical offices, as that was to ensure initial enquiries were directed accordingly.
In relation to the telephone number stated in ad (b), Haart acknowledged they did not have any physical branches in locations associated with that area code. They said some of the properties featured in the ad related to the challenged locations, including Wymondham and Hethersett, but any calls made to the number featured would be answered by or on behalf of the Norwich Golden Triangle office. They said it was not necessary to have a physical branch in order to provide estate agency services to a location, because those services could be provided to consumers by staff of the relevant offices. Haart understood consumers in the local area had not been misled into believing they had branches in the locations stated. While they considered the text "haart of …", shown in ad (b), did not in itself imply they had branches in the locations stated, they said they had decided not to use that language in future in relation to locations in which they did not have physical offices. They also said they had already initiated wider relevant changes to their advertising at the time the ASA contacted them, and the final part of that process was due to be completed shortly.
In relation to ad (a), the ASA acknowledged that the images, and the managers' names and addresses that related to the challenged locations, were the same as those that appeared under the results for "Norwich" and "Norwich Golden Triangle" on the branch search results page. However, we noted the challenged locations were named under several separate listings, which we considered gave the impression that physical branches existed for both "Eaton and Cringleford" and "Wymondham and Hethersett" and also for Costessey and Sprowston respectively. In addition, we noted that each of the listings appeared with its own telephone number, an email address that included the name of the specific advertised location(s) and a button labelled "Visit branch page", which we considered also contributed to that impression.
Ad (b) included property listings labelled "Hethersett", "Wymondham", "Cringleford" and "Eaton", as well as the page heading "Wymondham & Hethersett 01953 469275": the area code was that for Wymondham. In addition, the ad included text that stated "haart of WYMONDHAM & HETHERSETT" and an email address that included "wymondham …". We therefore similarly considered the overall impression of that ad was that Haart had a physical branch that served Wymondham and Hethersett.
While we acknowledged that the services Haart offered in relation to the challenged locations were provided by branches that covered wider areas, we considered consumers would understand the ads to mean Haart had specific office branches in the immediate areas referred to. Because that was not the case, we concluded that the ads were misleading.
The ads 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 ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Haart Estate Agents to ensure their future advertising did not state or imply they had physical branches in locations if that was not the case.