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Empowering all property agencies to investigate minor advertisement infringements

From 1 November 2018, all property agencies must investigate and take action against their property agents for minor advertisements infringements, or what is known as Type A infringements.

Since June 2013, property agencies with more than 100 agents have been carrying out investigations and taking action directly against their agents for Type A advertisement infringements.

At that time, the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) devolved the management of Type A advertisement infringements to larger property agencies so that they play a greater role in managing and supervising their agents. CEA started the practice with the larger property agencies as a pilot with the intention of implementing this for all property agencies eventually.

Over the past four years, CEA has observed that the larger agencies have been effective in managing Type A advertisement infringements, reducing the number of such complaints by about 70 per cent. As the practice has yielded positive results, CEA thus expanded the management of Type A advertisement infringements to include all property agencies with effect from 1 November 2018 (PC 07-18).

Key revisions to managing Type A advertisement infringements

The two key revisions in the latest practice circular on managing Type A advertisement infringements are:

  • Expanded coverage to include all property agencies

    All property agencies are required to investigate and take action against their agents for Type A complaints that CEA refers to them.

    This move is in line with the Code of Practice for Estate Agents (COPEA), which states that property agencies are required to vet all publicity and advertising materials of their agents prior to publication. In addition, agencies must put in place a system with suitable processes to receive and investigate the claims and complaints against their agents.

  • Reduction in types of Type A infringements

    CEA has reviewed the list of Type A infringements and has reduced the number of infringements from 12 to six:

    • Distribute flyers in an improper way, e.g. place flyers in front of door steps, in between the railings of wrought iron gates, or on the windshields of cars;
    • Put up advertisements or distribute flyers with missing or wrong information, such as company information, agent’s registration number, or contact number;
    • Place advertising banners at public or private premises without approval from relevant authorities;
    • Use business names or titles that cannot be substantiated, e.g. claim of expertise;
    • Send spam emails; and
    • Offer freebies or distribute brochures or name cards, e.g. outside Real Estate Salespersons examination centre, to recruit agents

Property agencies’ role in managing Type A infringements

Upon receiving a complaint that falls under a Type A infringement, CEA will assess whether the property agency should handle the complaint. If so, CEA will write to the Key Executive Officer (KEO) of the property agency to inform the agency to look into whether its agent had infringed the Code of Ethics and Professional Client Care (CEPCC) and/or the Practice Guidelines on Ethical Advertising.

The agency then conducts an investigation into the complaint. If the complaint is substantiated, the agency must take action against the agent who has committed the infringement by issuing a letter of advice (LOA) to the agent.

The agency must send CEA via an investigation report that details the outcome of its investigation and action taken against the agent, including a copy of the LOA if issued. Agencies must complete its investigations, take action against the agent, and submit the investigation report to CEA within four weeks.

CEA takes over investigation in certain cases

After receiving the investigation report, CEA will assess whether the property agency has taken appropriate action against the agent concerned. If the agency has not done so, CEA will investigate further and take appropriate action against the agent.

For cases whereby a Key Executive Officer is the subject of a Type A complaint, CEA will investigate and take appropriate action where necessary. This is because it would be inappropriate for KEOs to investigate complaints made against them.

In addition, if a property agent is found to have repeated the same type of offence, CEA will handle the case instead of referring it to the agent’s property agency.

Managing Type A advertisement infringements

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