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Property portals to face new fairness rules over paid-for ‘featured properties’

Business secretary says government wants online platforms such as property portals to be clearer about 'paid-for' promotions.

Nigel Lewis

featured properties property portals

Property portals may have to change the way they present the ‘premium’ or ‘spotlight’ properties agents pay for within listings, it has been confirmed.

Ministers this week announced that they want portals and websites in all sectors to more transparent about ‘products’ that are presented at the top of search results, but that are often paid-for by the advertiser.

‘Premium properties’, which agents pay to appear above their rivals’ homes for sale or rent, have been a key revenue stream for the portals since the first, Rightmove, started up in the early noughties.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng says: “The UK’s economic recovery relies on the strength of our open markets and consumers’ faith in them.

“By delivering on our commitment to bolster our competition regime, we’re giving businesses confidence that they’re competing on fair terms, and the public confidence they’re getting a good deal.”

His department’s report goes further, saying: “In many cases, firms may design their systems in ways which benefit consumers’ interests.

Manipulation

“But firms can also manipulate the way in which options are presented to nudge or push consumers towards certain choices which benefit the firm rather than the consumer.”

The Negotiator approached the three main property portals for comment but only OnTheMarket.com was happy to make a statement.

onthemarketIts CEO Jason Tebb (pictured) , told us: “Looking at the Government’s recent announcement around enhanced consumer protections, we don’t believe this will negatively impact our business model and service to both agents and consumers.

“Ultimately, it’s a very simple step for us to insert a ‘sponsored’ sticker on any featured property where the agent may have used a paid product to boost a particular listing’s exposure, much in the same way that sponsored posts are easily identifiable on social media.

“We will of course react as quickly as possible as and when any relevant measures are introduced, and obviously support best practice in terms of ensuring consumers are as protected as possible.”

The BEIS reforms are part of a much wider range of business measures being tackled which also include ensuring companies do not use ‘fake reviews’ to market their services or products.

Read more about property portals regulations.

July 26, 2021

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