An estate agent has been hit with a bill of over £3,000 after claiming on its website to be a member of the National Association of Estate Agents and the National Association of Valuers and Auctioneers.
Stephen Parry & Company, based in Leamington Spa, pleaded guilty to two offences of engaging in a commercial practice which was a misleading action under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
The prosecution was brought by Warwickshire Trading Standards.
While one of the company’s directors, Stephen Parry, had previously been a fellow of both Associations, his membership had lapsed in 2013.
Trading Standards said that members of these bodies are governed by professional standard codes of practice and such a statement could have influenced consumers in their choice of estate agency.
It said: “This is why it is so important that websites remain accurate.”
It added that it brought the prosecution after the business did not heed repeated requests to amend its website.
Nuneaton Magistrates Court heard that Stephen Parry was in fact the first-ever student member of the NAEA, has a degree in estate management and is a very experienced estate agent.
After the case, Warwickshire county councillor John Horner, portfolio holder for community safety, said: “When so much of our shopping is now carried out online, it is more important than ever that websites offering goods and services are accurate and consumers can have confidence in the information they provide and the claims they make.”
David Oliver, head of regulation at the National Federation of Property Professionals, said: “We are the body responsible for ensuring that members of NAEA and NAVA maintain high standards of practice.
“When businesses claim to be members of these organisations when they are not, it is detrimental to all those who are genuine members.
The agent was fined £1,000 in total for both offences and ordered to pay £1,911 costs and a £100 victim surcharge, a total of £3,011.
The website has now been updated.