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Advert aimed at first-time buyers banned for being ‘misleading’

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20/02/2019
A housing association has been forced to pull an advertising campaign, which suggested shared ownership was cheaper than renting.

The poster for Notting Hill Genesis Shared Ownership, seen on the London Underground on 25 September 2018, featured text saying: “I own a two bedroom apartment and pay less per month than my friends pay to rent a room in a flatshare!”

The advertising regulator ruled the shared home ownership element of the deal was not sufficiently disclosed.

The complainant, who understood that only a proportion of the property was owned, challenged whether the housing association’s claim “I own a two bedroom apartment” was misleading.

Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) defended its simplification of the advert strapline saying customer feedback relating to shared ownership suggested it was a complicated product. As a result, specialist legal and financial advisers support all customers buying a shared ownership home.

However, the association felt it was inappropriate to enter a potentially complex level of detail in the ad.

NHG said its objectives were to introduce itself and what it did for prospective customers. The headline used was paraphrased from a direct customer quote in a case developed to promote shared ownership at one of its developments.

Genesis said shared ownership was a part-buy, part-rent home ownership option designed to make buying and owning a home more affordable.

It said shared ownership leaseholders had been described as home owners by government, housing trusts, trade bodies and other providers of the scheme since the 1980s. All three calls to action in the ad directed consumers to content on the housing association’s website or to call them for further information.

The ruling

However, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld the complaint and banned the Underground poster advert.

The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “I own a two bedroom apartment” alongside text which stated “and pay less per month than my friends pay to rent a room in a flat share!” as a comparison between the monthly cost of paying rent to a landlord for a room in a shared home and the monthly cost of paying a mortgage on a property, rather than describing any more complex arrangement.

That impression was furthered by the fact that the words “I own” and “pay less per month” were bolded and by additional text which stated “HOME OWNERSHIP STARTS WITH US”. The reference to shared ownership in small print only was not sufficient to override that impression, it said.

Because the ad did not make clear that the advertised service was a shared ownership scheme, ASA concluded that the ad was misleading.

The ASA told Notting Hill Genesis to ensure that its future advertising of shared ownership properties made clear the nature of the scheme.

 

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