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ASA upholds Spicerhaart complaint about rival ad

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint made by the Spicerhaart Group against Abbotts Estate Agents, part of the Countrywide Group.

The complaint was made about a  leaflet for the estate agent which was headlined “As the number one local agent … we sell a house every two minutes It is worth thinking about.” Text in a box at the bottom of the page stated “Abbotts Countrywide”.

The reverse of the leaflet was headlined “You will be sold on our approach to selling your home” and had a list of branches and phone numbers. Text to the right of the page stated “Abbotts are your … number one local agent”. Text at the bottom stated “Figures based on Countrywide 2009 gross sales”.

Spicerhaart, which has had several adverts banned by the ASA challenged whether the following claims “the number one local agent” and “we sell a house every two minutes” were misleading and could be substantiated.

Abbotts Estate Agents provided a certificate and a copy of a Countrywide Group ad which they believed showed that they were the number one local agent.

Abbotts said the claim “we sell a house every two minutes” was based on the number of gross sales arranged by Countrywide Estate Agents during 2009. They pointed out that the claim was accompanied by an asterisk which linked to text on the back of the leaflet that made clear that it related to Countrywide data.

The ASA considered that readers of the ad would interpret the claim “number one local agent” to mean that Abbotts had a greater local market share or sold more properties locally than other agents.

The ASA noted that the certificate provided by Abbotts showed that Countrywide group, of which they were a part, had won the award for Best Large Chain at the 2010 Estate Agent of the Year awards. However, it understands that the awards were made on the basis of voting by customers and not upon objective data about market share or sales.

The ASA concluded the ad was misleading and it must not be shown again in its current form.

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