Homebuilder Aveling Homes has been slammed for trying to “fix” online reviews, and imposed with fines worth close to $400,000.
The Perth-based business, which has been operating since 2009, was penalised $380,000 by the Federal Court, after it was found to have manipulated customer reviews in order to improve its average rating.
It came not long after another property developer, Meriton, was also found guilty in court of review manipulation on popular review site TripAdvisor.
“Aveling held back bad reviews from its review website to give a more favourable impression of its services,” said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims.
The allegations are related to Aveling Homes’ fully owned and operate website avelinghomesproductreviews.com.au and, until 3 February 2017, another review site called firsthomeownerscentreproductrevies.com.au.
The company’s group sales and marketing manager was personally fined $25,000 for knowingly being involved in the process, which the ACCC said amounted to misleading conduct.
“Consumers are increasingly relying on online review sites to assist with their purchasing decisions. They are entitled to expect that review sites are independent and unbiased,” said Mr Sims.
“Companies publishing customer reviews online must be clear with consumers whether or not they accurately reflect the full range of consumer feedback – the good and the bad.”
The Aveling Homes website carried an image of its customer review, which reported a 4.2 (out of five) star rating from 601 reviews.
My Business can verify that Aveling Homes notified visitors to its website of the situation, with a pop-up notice outlining the court proceedings and agreed reparation orders.
The statement ended by saying that “Aveling undertook to refrain from engaging in similar conduct for a period of 3 years”.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.