Advertising watchdogs have rapped online letting agents Rentify for misleading consumers on a price comparison web site.
Following an investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority, Rentify has been told to make sure consumers searching for a letting agent on web site comparelettingagents.co.uk understand that Rentify owns the site and is included in search listings to find new customers.
The move follows a complaint from rival letting agents Lets-Rent.co.uk, which was included in the comparison site listings.
The firm claimed a statement saying the web site results were fair and impartial was misleading as site owner Rentify was always included in the search results.
London-based Rentify told the ASA that the web site had nearly anonymous 5,000 user letting agent ratings on the site for 16,620 letting agent branches across the country.
Rentify’s five-star rating was based on user reviews, the ASA was told, and their service often headed search listings because they were ordered by price and their service was free.
“We considered consumers would interpret the claim ‘fair and impartial’ to mean that the organisation that ran the website were entirely independent from the lettings industry and had no commercial interest in the ratings of the agents,” said the ASA ruling.
“While Rentify said the ratings were entirely user-sourced, the advertising code of conduct stated marketers should make clear their commercial intent, if that was not obvious from the context. While we noted text at the bottom of the page stated ‘Brought to you by Rentify’, we considered the impression a consumer would get from the claim ‘fair and impartial’ contradicted that fact.
“We considered, by choosing how the agents were ordered in the search listings, Rentify were benefiting by appearing at the top and we had not seen sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Rentify’s five-star rating was based on user reviews.”
The ASA disagreed with Rentify’s arguments and ruled that their marketing communications should change to indicate the firm’s commercial intent and should not misleading imply the business was separate from the lettings industry.