Sunday, 26 July 2015

Highland Titles Scam In Buy a Plot in Glencoe Shocker. ASA Rules Adverts Misleading Again!

 Highland Titles are once again in trouble with regulators. This time with the Advertising Standards Authority in another formal ruling found against them. Even more proof that some of their advertising is considerably less than truthful, and definitely not acceptable.

This will come as no surprise at all to those who know the devious conning ways of the people behind Highland Titles.

What have they been up to now? Well, they have been advertising via multiple search engine paid for adverts that consumers can "Buy A Plot in Glencoe" from them, which is entirely untrue, and very very naughty. The plots they sell contracts of rights to (not real ownership), are located in Duror, not anywhere which could remotely be described as "in Glencoe".

In their ruling the ASA wrote:

"Two sponsored search engine results for Highland Titles Ltd:
a. A Yahoo result stated "Buy A Plot in Glencoe - Help Conserve Scottish Landscape".
b. A Dogpile result stated "Buy A Plot in Glencoe - Surprise & Impress Your Friends"."

Unfortunately that was just the tip of the iceberg, we have been observing these adverts in multiple paid for search adverts for some time, for example .....

Google - 20/02/2015 - "Buy A Plot in Glencoe - Surprise & Impress Your Friends"

Bing - 31/05/2015 - "Buy A Plot in Glencoe - Help Conserve Scottish Landscape"

 Ask Jeeves - 21/02/2015 - "Buy a Piece of Glencoe - Surprise & Impress Your Friends"

Duckduckgo - 16/05/2015 - "Buy a Piece of Glencoe"

There are more but you get the idea, this is a matter of routine across multiple search engine adverts for Highland Titles.

The BBC ran an article on the affair in which we learn of the Highland Titles excuse. They claimed "The advert in question said 'buy a plot of land in Glencoe' simply because 'buy a plot of land in Glencoe Wood' exceeds the character limit.

This excuse is wonderfully transparent nonsense, one advert read in full "Buy A Plot in Glencoe - Help Conserve Scottish Landscape", clearly 'buy a plot of land in Glencoe Wood' is less characters than that! They simply lied to the BBC reporter. Anyway, if character numbers are an issue, Duror where the land is, is shorter than Glencoe where the land is not!

As is apparent from the ASA ruling, this is not the first time this same issue has been brought to their attention. It seems they were reported doing precisely the same thing some time ago. An earlier complaint was seemingly dealt with informally, but after agreeing to amend the adverts Highland Titles appear to have merely stuck two fingers up at the ASA, and carried on running identical adverts regardless.

This is all even more laughable when you consider that after the storm on Twitter when several real lawyers pointed out that Highland Titles' customers will not actually own the land, Highland Titles responded to that criticism and wrote, quote, "Would a scam operation work successfully with the Advertising Standards Authority to ensure its marketing copy complied with the ASA Code of Practice?"

If Highland Titles have been working with the ASA, it is now hilariously clear the operation has been much less than the success they claim. In fact after making an undertaking to the ASA not to run these adverts unchanged, they simply broke their own undertaking, and continued to run adverts they had already essentially acknowledged were misleading.

A couple of years back, we published a piece explaining why the HT product was thoroughly misleading: the title was meaningless, the land sale was meaningless, and the new Laird of Glencoe's land wasn't in Glencoe. HT hit back hard against our 'lies'. Quite amazingly, due to HT's persistence, each one of these points has now gone before a regulator and in each instance they have found against HT. The ASA ruled last year here that it was misleading to suggest buyers got a title, IPSO ruled earlier this year here in favour of the Daily Record that it was fair to say the land sales were meaningless and buyers got 'nothing', and now the ASA has ruled against the misleading use of 'Glencoe' to sell land in Duror.

Highland Titles bought a commercial forestry plantation with land in Duror, then called a bit of it Glencoe Wood, and labeled themselves Glencoe Estates. They said you would become a Laird of Glencoe, and to top it off invited people to "Buy A Plot IN Glencoe" via multiple adverts. Highland Titles have little connection to Glencoe, their land is in Duror. Calling yourself Laird (or Lord or Lady) of Glencoe by way of buying a contract of rights to a souvenir plot of land in Duror is simply preposterous, and would be entirely inappropriate anyway even if the land was actually in Glencoe, and buyers really owned it. It isn't and they don't.

Highland Titles have an ever growing list of informally resolved complaints made against them, and formally investigated complaints which have been upheld by the ASA. Not the signs one would expect to see of a reasonably reputable company, more the signs of the professional con artists and scam merchants we know the people behind Highland Titles actually are.

When a company continues to run adverts which they have already been made aware could be considered misleading, then break an undertaking to the ASA not to run these adverts again, and fibs about the reason behind it to a BBC reporter, what chance do you think there is that many of the claims made about the value of their conservation work or anything else, might also not be entirely truthful, but a mishmash of half truths, misdirection, guff, and outright lies?

It is well documented that members of the Bevis family who control Highland Titles have been involved in running scams. They harass and bully critics, and their tax arrangements are a somewhat colourful affair with companies linked to them in the Seychelles and a PO Box address in the British Virgin Islands. They also it seems agree to amend their advertising then don't bother, but carry on as usual knowing it is unlikely there will be any real consequences even if they are found out. The only "punishment" the ASA can administer is to publish their findings and that's about it.

So Highland Titles, keen to demonstrate how willing they are to comply with regulators and cease to mislead customers will have stopped indicating anywhere that their plots are in Glencoe then won't they? Sadly, but not surprisingly, they have not.

When customers go to the "buy your plot" page on the Highland Titles website, one on the choices for the location of your plot is "Glencoe"

Doing a search on Google for "buy plot glencoe" returns a result, though not a sponsored advert, the small print text of which reads " Find out what's in included in our gift pack, 1 sqft Glencoe".

More worryingly perhaps, is the fact that the Guernsey authorities seem prepared to allow the same people to be directors of a Guernsey registered charity which is not required to publish any public accounts, despite their demonstrably dishonest business practices, and ever increasing disreputable reputation.

No comments:

Post a Comment