Consumer watchdogs have ordered an online letting agent not to offer ‘unlimited advertising’ for buy to let landlords as the claim is misleading.
The web site openrent.co.uk claims to have let 976 homes in the past 30 days after generating more than 14,000 inquiries for landlords.
The site also says more than 6,800 landlords use the site and almost 9,300 homes have been let online.
However, the Advertising Standards Authority received a complaint that the online letting agent’s claims to offer ‘unlimited free advertising for £29’ and that properties would be ‘advertised until let’ were at odds with a fair use policy published on the web site.
The online letting agent’s fair use policy explained adverts would be removed after three months or after they had received 40 inquiries from prospective tenants even if they were not let out.
Openrent, based in Great Windmill Street, London, told the ASA: “The fair use policy affected less than 1% of site listings and was to prevent abuse of the system, such as scammers leaving an advert online for as long as possible to gain exposure in order to harvest tenant details for unsolicited direct marketing, fraudulent or otherwise undesirable purposes or to stop landlords with more than one property who attempted to use one listing to find tenants for multiple properties, and therefore avoided the usual fee payments.
“The policy was developed to ensure legitimate users were unaffected and this is borne out by statistics that showed the average time to let a property was 24 days, with an average 11.9 inquiries to let a property. Some legitimate customers would exceed those averages. However, the fair use limits allowed more than three times those figures before activation.”
The ASA pointed out legitimate customers could be affected by the fair use policy, because their listings would be removed if the time limit or number of inquiries tests were meet.
“We considered that unlimited and advertise until let were strong claims about the characteristics of the product and that consumers were likely to expect that the services described were not subject to restrictions,” said the ASA ruling.
“The unlimited claim featured prominently in the ad and the description of their product clearly stated ‘Advertise Until Let’ which we considered emphasised that there were no restrictions on listings. Because legitimate users could be subject to the fair use policy, we felt the service could not be described as “Unlimited” or “Advertise Until Let”.
“We therefore considered that the information in the small print about the FUP contradicted the claims, and we concluded the ad was misleading.”
Openrent was ordered not to show the claims in their advertising if they were contradicted by the fair-use policy.