ASA upholds complaint against search provider

The Advertising Standards Agency has told a website that offers Land Registry property searches and documents it must remove wording from its website which implies it offers an official government service.

The website www.landregistryonline.net, states it is "The home of official Title Documents & Property Searches … We are the leading Land Registry online search portal in the UK … Official Documents … We provide official Land Registry documents for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland".

In small print it states: "Disclaimer: LandRegistryOnline.net is an independent organization not affiliated with the UK Government".

A complaint was received challenging whether the website was misleading, particularly because the use of the word "official" implied it was acting on behalf of a Government department.

LandRegistryOnline.net claimed that it used the word official as they supplied “Official title documents" for legal purposes that could be used in a court of law or to prove property ownership.

They said they had used the word "official" to ensure consumers understood they could purchase official documents, rather than unofficial documents. They said they had an authorised e-business account with HM Land Registry which enabled access to all officially certified title documents.

The Advertising Standards Agency upheld the complaint and acknowledged that the documents supplied by Land Registry Online were sourced from the government’s own Land Registry database.

They acknowledged that Land Registry Online had not stated they were "The home of the official land registry" and that additional text "We are the leading independent Land Registry search portal in the UK" and "We are Professional Land Registry specialists in Land Registry Searches" was also included. However, they considered the text "The home of official Title Documents & Property Searches", displayed prominently on their home and subsequent web pages gave consumers the impression that Land Registry Online was an official portal for official title documents.

The ASA ruled that the claims must not appear again in their current form. Land Registry Online must also ensure that they do not imply that they offered an official government service in the future.

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