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Housebuyers warned over ‘misleading’ shared ownership ads

Written by: John Fitzsimons
Consumer group Shared Ownership Resources has issued an open letter to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) calling for an independent review into shared ownership advertising, saying they can “often over-simplify complexity by promoting benefits while understating hazards”.

The call for a review into shared ownership advertising is one of 18 recommendations in a report issued by the group, which it says shows “growing dissatisfaction” with the scheme pointing to mis-selling, conflicts of interest and poor value for money.

Shared Ownership Resources is an independent online platform for shared ownership and households considering the scheme.

The group says that shared ownership adverts typically say that it is cheaper or equal to renting privately in the same areas or that it can get certain borrowers on the property ladder sooner, however, some of these claims do not stand up to scrutiny.

It specifically points to problematic language around “part buy part rent” terminology, a lack of information on short leases, problematic affordability claims and whether the cross-subsidy model creates a conflict of interests.

The organisation continued that while ASA has made multiple rulings that certain shared ownership adverts were misleading, including against in 2022 and Notting Hill Genesis in 2019, and issued executive advice in November last year on advertising shared ownership properties, this was often being “overlooked or ignored”.

It noted that “part buy part rent” terminology was still “pervasive” in advertising by housing providers and their agents.

Shared ownership ads ‘over-simplifying complexity’

Sue Phillips, founder of Shared Ownership Resources, said: “Homebuyers may place trust in information conveyed via marketing content.

“This is, in part, because they are generally aware that shared ownership is a Government-backed and publicly-subsidised affordable homes scheme delivered by housing associations who describe themselves as ‘charitable’ and ‘not-for-profit’.

“However, shared ownership advertisements often over-simplify complexity by promoting benefits while understating hazards. This is particularly problematic given marketing campaigns are frequently positioned as an education tool, with homebuyers implicitly encouraged to place reliance on advertisements, advertorials and other online promotional resources including FAQs and online seminars.”

Calls for independent review

She welcomes ASA’s previous actions, including investigation into a current complaint about a Black Friday shared ownership promotion, but said that “tackling non-compliance with consumer protection regulations and the CAP Code on an ad-by-ad basis is slow and ineffective”.

Phillips called for ASA to work with other agencies to undertake an independent review into shared ownership marketing and to consult on options to prevent mis-selling and deliver an enforceable code of practice.

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