Check your facts first

2015-02

Estate agents should bear in mind that disseminating unverified transaction information is an irresponsible act and brings disrepute to the trade.

An estate agency company’s branch manager claimed to have received an inquiry from a potential purchaser interested in several flats in the same development.

The potential buyer did not inspect the flats but indicated that he might instruct his relatives to complete the purchases.

The manager later found that there were five completed transactions in that development.

Not having verified the identity of the buyers, he presumed that the purchases were made on behalf of that same buyer who approached him earlier and thus provided the information to the estate agency company he worked for.

The company then issued a press release on it to the media.

The information was widely reported but it was later suspected that the contents might be false.
The Estate Agents Authority started an investigation and it turned out that the information in the press release was false and misleading.

In this case, the estate agency company had breached section 9(1) of the Estate Agents Practice (General Duties and Hong Kong Residential Properties) Regulation by causing or permitting the issuance of an advertisement wholly or partly relating to its estate agency business which included a statement or particular that was false or misleading in a material particular.

The company was therefore reprimanded and fined HK$200,000. As to the branch manager whose irresponsible act brought disrepute to the trade, his license was suspended for two months.