Truth in Advertising
| December 18, 2012
“Get the downtown condo specialist working for you!!!!!”
“I’m going to work on your behalf to get you the best mortgage rate!!!!!”
We’ve all seen them, real estate and mortgage professionals who advertise their services with eye-catching claims and plentiful exclamation marks.
That real estate professional who bills himself as a condo specialist; obviously you will want to call him when you’re looking to buy a condo.
That mortgage broker who advertises that she “works for you” may actually be working as an intermediary in the deal or may be working on behalf of the lender.
Industry professionals are reminded that advertising cannot be false or misleading – even if it’s simply being done for ‘effect.’
If you call yourself a specialist of some sort, make sure your experience, credentials and/or
education would support your claim. If you represent that you have higher credentials, such as a condo specialist, you will be held to a higher standard by the consumer or RECA.
Likewise, particularly on the mortgage side, if you advertise that you’re going to “work for” consumers to get them the best rate, that implies you will be working as a representative for that consumer. When it comes time to make the required disclosures to the consumers, your representation disclosure should match the way you have advertised your services. If your business model has you working as an intermediary, or as a representative of the lender, using wording to the effect of “working for consumers” is misleading.
There is also an additional concern that advertising “best rate” is misleading without a qualifier. The fact is, if the rate is the only concern it would be difficult to always get the “best” rate for the borrower. Someone is always going to be able to offer a lower rate – it’s just that in doing so, that rate may come with strings attached that will not suit a specific borrower’s particular needs.
Now consider this wording for that same mortgage broker ad: “I’m going to work with you to get you the best mortgage for your needs!!!!” Still lots of exclamation marks to make a point, but the wording has been tweaked just enough to ensure it isn’t false or misleading about exactly what it is a mortgage broker will be able to do for a consumer; that is, the service he or she will be able to provide. Typically, rate is a very important factor, but if a mortgage broker is doing their job, they will conduct a borrower interview to determine a borrower’s other needs.
Now, that all being said, it is entirely possibly that there is nothing wrong with the wording in the first two examples above. The important thing, however, is that if you’re going to make any claims in your advertising – you need to be able to back them up – simply put, they need to be truthful.
For more information about misleading advertising, check out RECA’s Information Bulletin: Advertising – False or Misleading.
Have you seen certain trends in advertising by industry professionals that you believe are false or misleading?