x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Property websites paint a rosy picture

Websites of many property developers in Dubai have not been updated to reflect delays or cancellations of projects.

DUBAI // Websites of many property developers in Dubai have not been updated to reflect delays or cancellations of projects. One still prominently displays a press release announcing that the South African golfer Ernie Els had toured an 18-hole golf course bearing his name - in January 2007. Another shows updates from 2008 that still tout what it calls "significant progress" on a massive man-made island that is little more than a patch of sand off the shores of Deira today.

Rarely are detailed construction updates displayed on the websites. It is unclear whether the developers and related entities involved in projects that do not fully depict reality on their websites are still taking deposits from investors. It is also unclear whether Dubai's Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera) mandates that stalled and cancelled projects be explained as such on company websites.

Officials at the regulatory body could not be reached for comment. There is a lag on such regulation in other markets. In Britain, there is a gap in what authorities can regulate online, said Matt Wilson, a spokesman at the Advertising Standards Authority. However, its remit was scheduled to be extended to cover the marketing content on company websites, such as those of property developers. This, Mr Wilson said, would allow the ASA to refer companies accused of falsely advertising their products to the Office of Fair Trading.

Such regulation over content on the websites of UAE developers would be welcomed by the thousands of property buyers whose money is still tied up in stalled projects, said Farah Agha, who manages a 1,500-member group of aggrieved property investors in Dubai. "It would be great if they did this, because it would make our lives a bit easier," she said. "Unfortunately for people who don't live in Dubai, it becomes a bit of a nightmare trying to find out what's happening with things."

@Email:hnaylor@thenational.ae