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DECISION

VIEWS: 10 PAGES: 4

									                                                                              07/521


                                    DECISION

                           Meeting 13 November 2007


Complaint 07/521


              Complainant: D. Boeglin
              Advertisement: Harcourts Group Ltd

Complaint: The Piako Post community newspaper published a “Real Estate Guide
sponsored by Harcourts” with a range of classified advertisements under a number
of headings including “Board”, “Flatmates”, Open Home”, “To Let” and “Private
Advert”.

Complainant, D. Boeglin, said:

“I am a property investor who has advertised "Houses to let" for many years in the
Piako News. Generally such adverts generate between 15 to 20 replies.

I recently advertised a house for rent without any response. My initial thought was
that my advert had been omitted by the publisher.

I located my advert with much difficulty as it was included in the "Real Estate Guide
- sponsored by Harcourts"

Harcourts gives the impression that they sponsor the Real Estate Guide which in fact
they do not. If they did, I would not have to pay for my advertising.

I object that my privately paid advert is included in what appears the "Harcourts
section of rentals".

Many people I have spoken to say that they read the advert as I read it. Many
prospective tenants do not go to this section because they feel Harcourts are
involved with all of these ads. Many potential tenants forgo Real Estate agents and
want to deal directly with private landlords.

In order to make my advert stand out I had to highlight the fact that my advert is a
Private Advertisment at extra cost in the following week. Again the response was
very poor because the advert still appeared in the "Real Estate Guide - sponsored
by Harcourts".
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Generally the public warms to sponsors and gives them support. I object that
Harcourts should be seen as such a generous operator when in fact they are not.

I object that as a private advertiser a commercial entity hovers above my advert
discouraging people from making contact with the advertiser.

After complaints to Harcourts and Piako News they have now changed the blue line
surrounding the adverts to a black line.

I still object to this as my privately paid advert is still included within someone else’s
advert, in this instance “Harcourts” advert.

I believe that Harcourts is grossly in the wrong, claiming that they are sponsoring
between one third and one quarter of a page which in fact they are not.

I have spoken to Kevin Deane of Harcourts Cambridge about the advert. He says he
is doing nothing wrong.

I ask of you that as a private member of the public I should be able to publish my
advert making it appear just like that - a private advertisment.

I enclose two pages of the "Real Estate Guide -- sponsored by Harcourt?”
showing my two adverts that were simply ignored because of Harcourts doings.

I have spoken to rival Real Estate Agents and to veteran advertisers. They all agree
and say that such practice is just not on.

I would like to thank you for investigating my complaint.”

The Chairman ruled that the following provision was relevant:

Code of Ethics

      Rule 2: Truthful Presentation - Advertisements should not contain any
      statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly
      or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or
      deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and
      misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her
      lack of experience or knowledge. (Obvious hyperbole, identifiable as such, is
      not considered to be misleading).


The Advertiser, Harcourts Group Ltd, said:

“Recently we received your letter.

The party concerned who is sponsoring the advertisement is one of our Franchise
Owners, Mr Kevin Deane of Kevin Deane Real Estate Ltd and therefore technically
your correspondence should be with him.
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I have, however, discussed this matter with him and he has explained that
approximately three months ago the newspaper approached him and asked if he was
interested in paying for the banner, therefore sponsoring the advertisement block.

This sponsorship does not cover the cost of the ads as Kevin Deane Real Estate Ltd
pay for any ads they wish to run but merely gives the public a section of the
newspaper to look for all real estate advertising.

Kevin asked the newspaper at the time of their request if he was allowed to have his
logo in the block and they were happy to do so as he was paying for it.

Should the newspaper retract their request for sponsorship then he will be happy not
to continue. I trust this clarifies the matter for you.”


The Media, Fairfax Media, said:

“I refer to your letter of 16 October 2007. Piako Post (which is a Fairfax publication)
has considered the matter raised by D. Boeglin.

We are unable to see how the placement of an advertising 'banner" or lug on the
Piako Post's Real Estate section stating simply "Sponsored by Harcourts" could in
the circumstances impair public confidence in advertising (Rule 2 Code of Ethics).

The words "sponsored by..." are well understood publicly. They cannot be interpreted
as ownership of an event or publication. There are numerous examples of events
and publications that are sponsored by organisations - including real estate firms -
and we are aware of no occasion where the public considers that the fact of
sponsorship fundamentally changes or limits the nature of the event itself. The HSBC
Round the Bays Run, for example, is still understood to be a fun run raising funds for
charity, notwithstanding its sponsorship by a bank.

Furthermore, the listings in the Piako Post's Real Estate section are absolutely
conventional and each listing states clear contact details for a variety of advertisers -
private party, other agents, and other non-agency business.

The Real Estate section provided begins with a listing for "Board" - which is always
private party advertising and would never be an agency listing. It traverses properties
for sale and lease, storage (again, never listed by agents) flatmates and business
opportunities.

Any casual glance at the section listings would show a reader that the advertisers in
the section are from across a range of private party and business advertisers and
would dispel any impression - however conceived - that the listings in the section are
all from Harcourts.”


Deliberation

The Complaints Board reviewed all the material relevant to the Complaint including
correspondence and examples of the advertisement.
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The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the Complaint with
reference to Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics. This required the Complaints Board to
ascertain whether the advertisement in question was likely to mislead or deceive the
consumer.

The Complaints Board noted the concerns of the Complainant, where they had paid
for a private party classified advertisement and it had been published within an area
of the newspaper sponsored by a Harcourts agent, Kevin Dean Real Estate, which
the Complainant objected to.

The Complaints Board noted the response from Harcourts Group Ltd on behalf of
the Advertiser, and Fairfax Media on behalf of the Piako Post. In particular, the
Complaints Board noted the media response which said in part:

       “The Real Estate section provided begins with a listing for "Board" - which is
       always private party advertising and would never be an agency listing. It
       traverses properties for sale and lease, storage (again, never listed by
       agents) flatmates and business opportunities.

       Any casual glance at the section listings would show a reader that the
       advertisers in the section are from across a range of private party and
       business advertisers and would dispel any impression - however conceived -
       that the listings in the section are all from Harcourts.”

The Complaints Board agreed that the “Real Estate Guide” had provided a
sponsorship opportunity to an advertiser that happened to be a real estate agent.
The Complaints Board noted this is a reasonably common approach used in a range
of media and unanimously agreed that it was not likely to mislead or deceive the
consumer in relation to who was paying or who was responsible for the advertising.
The Complaints Board noted that all of the classified listings contained the names
and contact details of the individuals or companies that had placed them which
further clarified the private party nature of the advertising.

The Complaints Board agreed that the advertisement was not in breach of Rule 2 of
the Code of Ethics and accordingly it ruled to not uphold the Complaint.



Decision: Complaint Not Upheld

								
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