A property website has fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The website www.openrent.co.uk, for property listings, stated on its pricing page “Unlimited Advertising £29 … Advertise Until Let*”. Small print stated “*FAIR USE POLICY – WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO TAKE DOWN LISTINGS IF ABUSING THE SYSTEM – IE. [SIC] GENERATING DISPROPORTIONATELY HIGH NUMBER OF VIEWING REQUESTS, OR REPEATEDLY KEPT ONLINE FOR OVER 3 MONTHS”.
The complainant challenged whether the claims “Unlimited Advertising” and “Advertise Until Let” were misleading as the advertiser imposed a fair use policy.
OpenRent Ltd t/a openrent.co.uk (OpenRent) said its fair use policy (FUP) was made clear to customers on their pricing page and in the terms that all users agreed to. It said their terms clearly stated “Although we don’t expect our fair usage limits to be breached by genuine landlords, we will remove all adverts which are generating a disproportionately high number of viewing requests (over 40 per advert), or where three months has elapsed from the time of publishing the ad”.
The ASA noted OpenRent’s assertion that their FUP was to ensure their listing system was not abused and that less than 1% of customers were affected. However, the watchdog was concerned that some legitimate customers could be affected by the policy, because the small print stated that their FUP would mean listings would be taken down if certain criterion were met.
The ASA 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.
The ASA noted that the claim “Unlimited” featured prominently in the ad and the description of their product clearly stated “Advertise Until Let” which it considered emphasised that there were no restrictions on users’ listings. Because legitimate users could be subject to their FUP, the ASA considered the service should not be described as “Unlimited” or “Advertise Until Let”. It therefore considered that the information in the small print about the FUP contradicted the claims, and concluded the ad was misleading.
OpenRent was told that the ad must not appear again in its current form. It was also told not to make “unlimited” claims if a listing could be suspended as a consequence of a legitimate user exceeding a FUP.