A regional press ad and website, www.yorkshiresfinest.org, for Yorkshire’s Finest, an estate agent,:
a. The website, seen during 2016, featured an image of a map with the locations, Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Bradford, Denby Dale and Holmfirth shown on the relevant parts of the map with telephone numbers for each location. Text directly underneath was headed, “Our Offices” with the same locations listed.
b. The regional press ad, seen in February 2017, featured text which stated “Contact your local office” with the listings for Leeds, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Bradford, Denby Dale and Holmfirth and telephone numbers for each.
The complainant, who believed there were no offices in Wakefield or Bradford, challenged whether the website and press ad were misleading.
Yorkshire’s Finest Ltd said that they would remove the Bradford listing and phone number. It was included because they had intended to rent a small office in the area which did not materialise.
They said that the Wakefield phone number was genuine as there was an employee of the company who worked from an office at their home in the Wakefield area. Yorkshire’s Finest said this allowed customers in the area to call and meet with a local representative and only pay the price of a local call. They said that no customer had requested an appointment with a representative in Wakefield, but believed this could be accommodated if it was requested.
Yorkshire’s Finest said that the current state of estate agency was wholly different from in the past, and the traditional shop window was not as relevant as it once was. They also said that nowhere in their literature did they claim to have a “shop” or premises with a window display in Wakefield, or in any other location and that their work was conducted mostly in customers' own homes.
In relation to ads (a) and (b), the ASA considered that consumers were likely to interpret the area listings shown under the headings, “contact your local office” and “our offices”, which appeared in both ads, together with phone numbers, to mean that there were physical offices in those locations. We noted that Yorkshire’s Finest said that they did not claim to have premises in any locations. However, we considered that the listing of the locations in the ads was a strongly implied claim that there were offices in these areas.
We acknowledged that there had been a proliferation of different types of estate agent in recent years which challenged the traditional model. However, we understood that the office in Wakefield was the only one where an employee worked from his home address, and that the overall impression given by the website was of Yorkshire’s Finest being a traditional estate agent. So, in the absence of any qualification, we considered that customers would expect that in Wakefield there would be a physical office with the typical facilities of an estate agent, such as a property window display and the opportunity to meet with a representative in a shop-like setting.
We considered consumers would understand from the ads that there was a physical office in Wakefield in the style of a traditional estate agent. Because that was not the case, we concluded that the ads were misleading.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Yorkshire’s Finest Ltd not to imply that they had a physical office in locations where no such office existed.