Precedent finding in broker 'espionage' conflict

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In what could well be a precedent-setting case, CAAMP has found a broker in violation of its code of conduct for effectively using a competitor’s name to drive traffic to his own website.

He “has until mid-August to agree to the settlement,” said Mark Webb, ethics investigator for CAAMP, in a letter to the complainant. “If he does not then he will be required to attend a hearing. If he refuses to attend, his CAAMP membership will be suspended.”

The decision is believed to be the first case involving the use of questionable search engine optimization practices, or so-called “Black Hat SEO,” by a mortgage broker brought before CAAMP. It would see the violator fined $500, handed a written reprimand to remain on his file for five years among other things.

Earlier this year was the first to report on the concerns of BC-broker Mike Averbach. The mortgage professional would ultimately take his complaint to CAAMP, specifically alleging another broker had encoded his name on a blog webpage entirely unrelated to Averbach or his firm. The result was a Google search for Averbach’s name would also result in that competitor’s site appearing in the search results.

The accused broker has said that the use of Averbach`s name was inadvertent and the fault of a former manager of his website.

Averbach, one of the first brokers to use the Internet to actively promote his business, said the intention was clearly to capitalize on his early success.  He said he wished CAAMP had reached for a higher fine.

“It was a very frustrating time for me, so I consider this a small victory not only for myself, but for the other brokers in Canada that have had their website information copied or misused by others for the purpose of ‘Black Hat SEO’ gains,” Averbach told

There is more to the CAAMP`s proposed censure. The committee would also publish a summary of the case and its findings as well as require the broker to complete an online course on the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.

Averbach told that he received the proposed settlement from CAAMP late last week but does not know if the accused broker has accepted the terms.

“The fine is less than what I believe was merited and could have been at least four digits,” he said. “That being said, I am satisfied that CAAMP is taking this case as seriously as I have and will require publication of a full summary.”


  • BOB SMITH on 2012-08-01 3:56:25 AM

    ths is welcome news. I have a very similar situation with two competing brokerage firms capitalizing on using variations of my brokerage name that has been in place since 1999. I have attempted to contact Mark Webb with no response to date . Need more value for the CAAMP dues we are paying and not just lip service .

  • CAAMP is doing this themselves on 2012-08-01 4:09:40 AM

    After reading this article I did a quick search on CAAMP’s own website. Seems the pot is calling the kettle black. CAAMP is guilty of black hatting as well. I don’t really care, but since they’re taking the ethical high road, they should be held to their own standards.

    Their meta keywords on their site include “Seneca”

    One can only assume that this is to get people looking for Seneca’s course to come to their website instead.

    Go to their site and view their source. See it for yourself…until they take it down

    They also do this on their Ontario Mortgage Agent Course page, as well as all of their mortgage course pages.

    So who does CAAMP fine at CAAMP? And how much are they going to fine themselves? Will they put a letter on their file…etc. etc. etc lol

  • Jeremy on 2012-08-01 4:45:08 AM

    Like in any industry, there will always be leeches out there. I think our Governing bodies i.e. FICOM, RECA, etc... need to take a stance and promote more ethical behavior among it's members. I think there should be a zero tolerance, you're either ethical or you're not. Stop with the hand slap of $500, nobody cares, pull their license! It's time we lose some dead weight!!

  • @kiltedbroker on 2012-08-01 7:57:50 AM

    I didn't actually believe it - but it is right there - Seneca is a Meta keyword on the CAAMP site - that is brilliant! Thanks for pointing that out there buddy with no actual name.

    I think that this breaks down with the assumption that these brokers are competition. How long do we continue the in-fighting until we realize that as brokers we need to WORK TOGETHER in this industry and offer a viable solution to THE BANKS. We don't even have a quarter of the market share the banks do, and rather than going after them, we fight for the scraps at their table. I bet you the broker that is fighting so hard to steal deals from other brokers sends all his business to TD or Scotia anyway.

    I find it comical that there is even an argument over keyword searches and black hat SEO - you can have these clients. They are generally unqualified clients looking for the best rate anyway, people you can really build a long term business on - this is purely the comoditization of our industry.

    Brokers, please stop using the internet as the new playing field for cheap Billboards, gimmicks and tricks and start providing REAL VALUE to your clients.

    I am done.

  • SeanYYC on 2012-08-02 12:39:06 AM

    Its CAAMP. They're hypocrites, and largely ineffective in regards to consumer awareness. All they can do is suspend a membership

  • Rob on 2012-08-02 1:53:10 AM

    If you're wondering what Kilted Broker is talking about, here is the screenshot of CAAMP's source codes

    Sell value. Web searching is only the start.
    If you create enough valuable content, you'll NEVER have to pay for SEO.

  • Laurie on 2012-08-04 2:37:38 AM

    Social media is the new way to attract a client. We need to be moving into that new direction to keep up with the marketing trends. Stealing is stealing and should be dealt with severly. A $500 fine is a joke. It is time for CAAMP and other industry regulators to bring more integrety to our industry!

  • BCBroker on 2012-08-04 2:41:08 AM

    So would buying ad space on Google Ad Words for a brand name be the same?

    What if TD (or CIBC or RBC etc) used "mortgage broker" as a key word.

    Clearly they are not, would they be scrutinized the same way? Called to a hearing by the mighty CAAMP and fined if they don't comply?

    And what if DLC coded for Verico & Invis for MA?

    As someone said above, these leads are very low quality and best left for the ratesupermaket type of sites.

    my $0.02

  • Laurie on 2012-08-04 2:43:11 AM

    Social media is the new way of marketing and we need to be actively moving into this new area to attain clients. In my opinion, stealing is stealing and should be dealt with severly. CAAMP and other industry regulators need to enforce regulations with appropriate fines. A $500 fine is a joke! That does not even reflect one finders fee on an average deal. It is time we brought more accountability and integrety to our industry. If you are caught stealing from another industry member then you should lose your license period.

  • Ron on 2012-08-04 3:53:29 AM

    I find it amusing that we are arguing over someone clicking through links on the internet. Is that to say if an individual clicks onto my website that they are now "my client"? What's the difference between two different brokers coming up on a key word search, and two brokers putting up billboards along a highway adjacent to each other? Hey that's not fair! I put my billboard there first...!

    Will we need to have CAAMP provide a ruling against the broker who put up the second billboard?

    Come on now. Let's focus on offering valuable content to prospective clients and a viable alternative for them to consider over the Banks. Personally I am not concerned with brokers competing with each keeps us raising the bar within our industry to be the best we can be.

  • Paul Therien, CENTUM on 2012-08-05 5:44:28 AM

    This is not just about Internet leads, this is about branding. All organizations brand, no matter how large or small. It is how the customers find us time and again. To do this is to infringe on another's brand for gain of business. CAAMP is trying tomtake a step here, and good for them to do so. The reality is they do not have full jurisdiction to enforce a change. If you have the proper trademarks in place, this can be stopped through the courts. If you do not have those trademarks, then there is little that can be done.

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