Wrong photos put agency on spot

2017-07

Estate agents must act in an honest manner and not issue any advertisements containing misleading or wrong information. Otherwise, they may be subject to disciplinary action by the Estate Agents Authority.

An estate agency posted an advert of a residential property for sale or rent, with information of its block number, saleable area, and gross floor area. Several photos showing the view of the property and its interior were included.

However, the photos did not belong to the advertised property, but to another property located in the same block on a lower floor, which shared the same direction and view.

The staff of the estate agency found the photos in the company computer database and used them.

Later on, when the owner of the other property discovered the ad, she lodged a complaint with the EAA. An inquiry hearing was conducted after an investigation.

The EAA disciplinary committee was of the view that the estate agency adopted the photos of another flat without carefully verifying the information when placing the advertisement. Therefore, they breached section 9(1) of the Estate Agents Practice (General Duties and Hong Kong Residential Properties) Regulation, which stipulates that “a licensed estate agent shall not cause, or permit to be issued, an advertisement wholly or partly relating to his estate agency business, which includes any statement or particular that is false or misleading in a material particular”.

Having considered the nature and gravity of the case, the disciplinary record of the licensee and the sanctions imposed in similar cases, the estate agency was reprimanded and fined $11,500.

(Published in The Standard)