Government investigation into Zillow co-advertising

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has ended its investigation into whether the Zillow Group violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) and Section 1036 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act with its co-marketing program for agents and lenders, according to a form Zillow filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The co-marketing program allows Zillow Premier Agents to invite lenders to share advertising costs and appear alongside them as “Premier Lenders.” That arrangement could have exposed agents to legal liability if regulators found that agents were not paying their fair share of the advertising spend. CFPB was considering whether this setup violated the anti-kickback provision of RESPA and the section of the Consumer Financial Protection Act that prohibits anyone from helping financial service providers deceive customers.

An office within CFPB notified Zillow it was considering whether to recommend legal action in February 2017. The bureau and Zillow spent the past several months going back and forth to reach a settlement. The CFPB told Zillow on Friday that the investigation was complete and that the bureau did not intend to take enforcement action.

“We are pleased the CFPB has concluded their inquiry into our co-marketing program,” Zillow said in a statement. “As we have said before, it is long-standing practice for agents and lenders to advertise together, and we are glad they can continue to do so through Zillow Group’s advertising platform. Our mission has always been to arm consumers with information that helps them make smarter financial decisions, which this program does by providing consumers with an easy way to connect with agents and lenders.”

Zillow likely benefited from the switch from the Obama to the Trump administration in this case, according to litigation analyst Thomas Claps of Susquehanna Financial Group.

Broadband advertisement in the UK

According to KitGuru, up until today, internet service providers have advertised their top speeds, so long as at least 10 percent of its user base could achieve the displayed “up to” peak download speed. Enforcing strict new rules that were announced last year, ISPs will now have to shake up their advertisement practices, catering to a much larger portion of its customers.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) revealed the changes in November 2017, which ditches “up to” entirely in favor of a collected average achieved by at least 50 percent of customers during peak times, from 8 pm to 10 pm.

“From today, consumers will see a difference in broadband ads that make claims about speed as this new, tougher, standard is enforced,” assures ASA chief executive Guy Parker. “We’ll be making sure consumers aren’t misled by speed claims in ads, not least because choosing the right broadband deal has become such an important part of running a household or business.”

While it isn’t a requirement of the newly enforced rules, CAP is also pushing ISPs to be as transparent as possible by recommending they urge their customers to use speed-checking facilities such as their own tools or Ookla’s SpeedTest, McDonald’s feedback.

“These changes will mean that broadband providers will no longer be able to entice customers with unrealistic adverts promising speeds that most of their customers may never get,” adds Which? managing director of home services Alex Neill, stating that it will “be watching closely to make sure providers are finally living up to their promises.”

Ofcom shares a similar sentiment with consumer group director Lindsey Fussell stating that “these new rules will make a real difference in closing the gap between what broadband shoppers expect and what they actually receive.