Consumer Protection Act will call for precision and clarity in marketing

Lanice Steward, MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank, has added her voice to that of several other high profile personalities in the property sector in saying that the new Consumer Protection Act will call for greater all round precision and clarity in all property marketing and transaction documentation.

In particular, said Steward, the way in which a home is represented to the potential purchasers will have to be carefully considered.

“Any false representation or inaccurate concepts – let alone any wrong data – could under the new Act make it possible for the buyer on appeal to the courts to get the contract cancelled.

“What is more, the verbal sales pitch used by the agent could also conceivably be deemed as misrepresentation – although that would probably require a witness.”

Complaints about misrepresentation, said Steward, will inevitably, be directed initially at the agents who will then have to confront the seller who in one way or another may have misled them.

“In the end the misdemeanour will be traced back to its source by the agent.”

Steward pointed out, too, that the Act seeks to simplify difficult legal terminology. A phrase such as “voetstoots” which could be labelled as likely to be misunderstood by the general public will have now to be replaced by wording that is more readily comprehensible.

Steward added that it will be interesting to see if the courts regard as a deliberate misrepresentation any attempt to load the price above market value.

“In the traditional free market the seller can ask what he likes for his home. If, however, he gives the impression that a high price is in fact competitive, he is letting himself in for an accusation of misrepresentation – but I cannot see the courts standing by a claim on such an issue – unless in some way or other coercion was used to force the buyer to sign.”

Although the seller is not deemed by the Act to be the “supplier” of a property for sale (unless he is also the developer), he should, said Steward, insist that the agent complete a comprehensive list (in writing) of every aspect, feature and fitting in the home – all of which could affect the value of the property. A copy of this list should be given to the seller to check and sign. Such a list, said Steward, could help prevent the seller being blamed later if the agent does not describe the property with complete accuracy to the potential buyers.

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