New Year, New Clarifications on Advertising
| February 08, 2019
NOTE: On August 8, 2019, the Minister of Service Alberta suspended the implementation of Council’s advertising guideline clarifications (below) that were to take effect on October 1, 2019. The current advertising guidelines (above) are in effect.
Ensure your ads are compliant by October 1, 2019
For more than a decade, RECA has required a “clearly indicated” brokerage name in any industry advertisement—but what does this mean, and what are the advertising standards when it comes to associates advertising their personal brand, or the brand of their team?
“Misleading advertising, whether intentional or not, about who consumers will actually be hiring is a serious issue in Alberta,” said Robert Telford, RECA Chair.
“To address these issues, Council passed a motion to clarify what “clearly indicated” means and to ensure consumers are not misled.”
Advertising clarifications for ALL industry professionals
Effective October 1, 2019, the following clarifications will take effect:
- “clearly indicated” means: the brokerage name must be similar in size or larger than other identifiers, and immediately adjacent to other identifiers in advertising.
- RECA has an existing requirement that industry must “trade in real estate/deal in mortgages only in the name that appears on that individual’s licence.” As it relates to “team” advertising, Council expanded this requirement to include “the name of at least one licensed team member, as it appears on the individual’s licence, must appear in any team advertising.”
- Council has prohibited specific words and terms that may suggest to consumers, or create the impression, the team is a brokerage.
• The prohibited terms include: Agency, Associates, Brokerage, Brokers, Company, Corporation, Corp., Inc., Ltd., LLC, LLP, Mortgages, Properties, Property, Realty, Mortgages,* Real Estate*
• Exception: “Mortgages,” “Mortgage,” “Real Estate,” and “Realty” may be used in team names only when followed immediately by one of two terms; either “team” or “group.”
While these changes will take effect on October 1, 2019, RECA will give industry professionals, teams, and brokerages six additional months (until March 31, 2020) during which they may advertise with “formerly known as.” After this, RECA will take a zero-tolerance approach.
Clarity for consumers
“Really these changes are about consumer protection—consumers must know who they are hiring, or potentially hiring,” said Telford. “They must understand the role of the brokerage, the role of the brokerage representative, and the role of the “team,” if any.”
So, if your team name is Your Name & Associates, it implies that the “associates” in the team work for, and are licensed with, the team, with the team leader as the broker. But in reality, all the team members, including the team leader, are part of the larger brokerage.
If your personal branding is Jane Doe Real Estate, it implies your company is a brokerage, and it could mislead consumers into thinking they are hiring Jane Doe Real Estate, when they are in fact hiring Jane Doe’s brokerage.
These changes will help avoid the perception of a brokerage within a brokerage, and ultimately help consumers know exactly whom they’re hiring.
Not sure if your ads will comply? We have a suite of tools on our website to help you:
- Visual Examples: this document provides visual examples of what’s acceptable or not acceptable across different platforms
- Advertising Checklist: download this document for a step-by-step process to ensure your advertisements meet the latest guidelines
- FAQ: perhaps we’ve covered off your questions in the FAQ on our website
- Are you a broker? If so, you can request a presentation to your brokerage by contacting our practice advisors
More information is on our recently updated Advertising webpage.
Are Your Ads Compliant?
Follow this 4-step checklist:
- Collect an inventory of your advertising (e.g. bus bench ads, digital ads, flyers, brochures, billboards)
- Assess whether or not your advertisements meet the requirements and clarifications. Things to look for:
• Is your brokerage name/branding included?
• Is your brokerage name/branding in a similar size or larger than other identifiers in the ad, such as your name or photo?
• Do you have any prohibited words in your ads? If so, replace them. Remember ‘real estate’ and ‘mortgage’ are permitted when immediately followed by ‘team’ or ‘group’.
• Are you advertising yourself as an expert, or having significant experience? If so, know that RECA will hold you to a higher standard in a regulatory proceeding.
- Review your brokerage’s branding and/or advertising policies and procedures.
- Make the necessary adjustments to your ads as soon as possible, and no later than October 1, 2019.