Advertising watchdog slaps down agent over market share claims
Thursday 16th August 2012
A letting agent which claimed to be a town’s number one has been told off by the advertising watchdog in a case that has ramifications for other agents trying to prove market share.
The Advertising Standards Authority particularly noted in its ruling that the number of boards outside properties was no indicator of market share, because 'unscrupulous agents' would put up bogus signs.
And it went on to pour cold water over the use of mystery shopping to try to establish market share, saying the method was neither independent nor accurate.
IMS Residential, of Derby, said it had been Derby’s number one letting agent for seven years running, and was also the town’s number one award-winning agent.
The claims appeared on NAEA firm’s own website and went undisputed until they drew a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.
IMS told the ASA that it had been using the tagline since 2005 after producing evidence to the local paper.
IMS said it believed it was clearly the number one letting agent in Derby, with evidence to show it had carried out the largest number of credit check applications, had the most company cars and bought more advertising space in the local newspaper than any other agent in Derby.
IMS also submitted information which it claimed showed it had the most properties listed online and had the highest number of letting boards on display in Derby. Results of a mystery shopper exercise found that IMS had the most properties to let. The firm provided further information to show that it registered the greatest number of deposits with one deposit scheme in Derby.
IMS said it believed that the cumulative effect of all those factors amounted to sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim. It believed it was not fair or reasonable for the ASA to expect it to obtain evidence of the total number of properties let from other agents, because a competitor would not disclose such information and an independent database of such information did not exist.
But the complaint was upheld yesterday.
The ASA considered consumers would understand the claim to mean that IMS was the agent that had let the most properties in the area over a reasonable period of time.
Whilst IMS had the most company vehicles and newspaper advertising, and had carried out the most credit checks with one provider, that was not indicative of how many properties the firm had let in comparison to its competitors.
The ASA went on in its adjudication: “We considered that, as not every estate agent was guaranteed to put a board outside a property and as boards could be unscrupulously placed by agents, counting let board presence was not an adequate method of substantiating a claim about market leadership.
“We understood that, after we had contacted IMS, they had sent a mystery shopper to every estate agent in Derby and asked how many properties they had let that month and/or how many they let on average. However, we did not consider that to be an independent and accurate way of recording the exact number of properties let by their competitors over a reasonable period of time.”
The ad must not appear again in its current form. The ASA has told IMS not to state it is the number one letting agent in Derby if if did not have adequate comparative evidence to support that.
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