The Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) has issued a Practice Guideline to promote ethical advertising by property agents. These guidelines were developed after consultation with property agents, industry associations, government bodies such as the HDB and URA, and the Consumers Association of Singapore. These guidelines will apply to all forms of advertisements, including classifieds, pamphlets or flyers, online advertising, SMS and even social media.
With effect from 1 August 2011, property agents must:
1. Refrain from using misleading headlines and claims
Use of headlines such as “King of xxx (location)”, “Mr. xxx (location”, “Real Estate Specialist” or “Expert” are no longer allowed. Property agents must also ensure that any claims of expertise, specialization or success rate can be substantiated by verifiable records.
2. Display their professional details
Details like their name, registration/licence and contact numbers must be included in every advertisement. This is to prevent unlicensed agents from operating.
3. Ensure accurate contents in their advertisements
Advertisements are not allowed to be inaccurate or misleading. So claims of rates of return or rental yield must be substantiated, and credible sources quoted. In the case of pictures, only real photographs may be used, including things such as the view from the unit and the actual interior. Agents are also not allowed to suggest or abet circumventing of any laws and regulations, e.g. helping owners to sell their HDB flats before the Minimum Occupation Period.
4. Engage in responsible advertising
SMS property advertisements must provide a valid mobile phone number for consumers to opt out of future messages, and SMS advertising cannot take place between 10pm and 9am.
Property agents are also not allowed to market any property without the owner’s consent. Those caught advertising other people’s unit or dummy ad or in the hope to get direct buyers will be penalised as it is tantamount to unethical code of conduct. If you suspect someone else is doing that, you may report them to CEA in writing.
According to Mr. Lee Say Kee, Director (Regulatory Control) of CEA and Chairperson of CEA’s Ethical Advertising Work Group, misleading and unauthorized advertisements are among the top three categories of public complaints. He further adds, “To date, we have issued 23 letters of advice to estate agents and salesperson on such complaints. The Guidelines will provide clarity on the do’s and don’ts of advertising, thereby raising professional and ethical standards in the industry.”
Members of the public who would like to lodge a complaint can do so at the CEA website here: http://www.cea.gov.sg/cea/content/resources_faq/faqComplaintForm.html.
Will the public finally be free of the nuisance of spam SMSes and mailboxes full of property flyers? Let’s see how effective the enforcement of these Guidelines are!