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 MortgageBrokerNews.ca 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 MortgageBrokerNews.ca.
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 MortgageBrokerNews.ca 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.”