December 24, 2016 1:36 am JST

Japan clamping down on bait-and-switch real estate ads

Stepping up oversight in cyberspace ahead of moving season

TOKYO -- Japan's land ministry seeks to crack down on bad-faith real estate ads online by bolstering communication with the industry about illegal practices.

Employing classic bait-and-switch tactics, some realtors post properties that are no longer on the market to lure consumers with such favorable terms as below-market rents and "no security deposit required." When potential customers inquire, the agent informs them that the property is taken and shows other properties.

People are increasingly using the internet to view listings, so these traps abound on online platforms.

The ministry will make clear to industry associations that advertising a property with no intent of actually offering it is against the law, as is keeping ads on websites after leases have been signed for the properties. Real estate transactions increase toward the end of the fiscal year in March, so the ministry seeks to make a sweep now.

The Real Estate Fair Trade Council of greater Tokyo will introduce in January a rule blocking "black-listed" advertisers from member businesses' online portals for a given period.

Japanese law bans exaggerated ads on properties, with violations subject to business suspensions and other penalties. 

(Nikkei)

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