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Press under no obligation to include financial advice in stories, IPSO rules

NewIPSOThe press watchdog has rejected a man’s claim that a weekly newspaper should have included financial advice in a story it ran about a new housing development.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has rejected a complaint from Paul Andrews, who accused the Bracknell News of publishing inaccurate advice in a story it published.

The News had covered a statement given by the marketing director of a homebuilding firm responsible for a development of “off-plan” houses, reporting the homes were designed for first time-buyers to get on the property ladder and buyers would “see the value of their new home go up”.

It included comments from the marketing director, who explained his view that buying off-plan had “many benefits” including the fact that buyers were “more likely to make money on the house before [they] moved in”.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mr Andrews said it was misleading to report that the value of the houses would go up because there was the possibility that a house bought off-plan would not rise in value, for example, if the housebuilder went bankrupt or the property was of poor quality.

He believed the story was unbalanced and constituted inaccurate financial advice, claiming it should have included warnings about the risks of purchasing an off plan home, and also felt the article was an undeclared advertisement for the homebuilding firm.

In response, the News said that it accurately reported the homebuilder’s view that the value of the houses would rise over time, and noted that the article qualified his statements by saying that buyers were “more likely” to make a profit.

It believed readers would understand that reporting that the value of the houses would “normally” rise was based on the homebuilder’s experience of recent years, but it was not an absolute guarantee that a buyer would achieve a profit from the purchase.

The News added it would be clear to readers that the article was reporting the claims of the housebuilder quoted, and it was not suggesting that the house prices would rise in all circumstances – it would be obvious to readers that house prices could rise or fall.

It said Mr Andrews had declined its offer to print a letter in the paper.

IPSO noted that there may be an ambiguity as to whether the statements had been adopted as fact by the News, but found that in circumstances where it went on to explain that the purchase price was “normally” lower that the final value, and so buyers would be “more likely” to make a profit, it had made clear to readers that the claim that the prices of the houses would rise was not an absolute one and clarified any earlier possible claim of fact.

In addition, there was no requirement under the Editors’ Code for the article to be balanced or to include financial advice.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.