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ACCC hammers builder over Online Reviews

The ACCC has issued proceedings against Perth builder, Aveling Homes Pty Ltd, alleging misleading and deceptive conduct regarding online reviews.

What happened?

Aveling Homes created websites for customers to post reviews about their experiences with both it and associated company the First Home Owner’s Centre. The ACCC alleges:

·       The sites were made to look like independent product review sites when this was not the case; and

·       Aveling Homes ‘managed’ the sites to remove or obscure negative reviews, leaving only positive reviews visible.

Why is this a problem?

Manipulating or distorting reviews to create a more favourable impression of your goods is a big no-no. Put simply, it’s misleading and deceptive conduct.

Said ACCC Deputy Chair, Dr Michael Schaper:

“We believe the potential for harm from the conduct alleged in this case is significant, as buying or building a home is one of the biggest purchasing decisions for Australians.

"Online reviews are increasingly being relied on by consumers and they should be able to trust that those reviews are independent, unbiased and accurately reflect the range of consumer feedback received”.

The ACCC further alleged the company’s Marketing Manager was ‘knowingly concerned’ in these matters, and is seeking (amongst others) penalties, corrective notices and undertakings.

Aveling is defending the claims.

The takeout

As we’ve mentioned previously, the ACCC has published a helpful guide to the do’s and don’ts of online reviews. The key points are:

·       Don’t publish fake reviews.

·       Don’t delete negative reviews or only publish positive reviews.

·      Incentives (if offered) must be disclosed where the reviews are published, and must be given regardless of whether the review is good or bad.

This case comes hot on the heels of the allegations against Meriton regarding manipulation of Trip Advisor reviews.

Clearly the ACCC is on the warpath.

David Kelly is the founder of KHQ Approved, which offers fixed fee solutions across a range of areas (including marketing law and contract review).  Peace of mind from an experienced team for a reasonable price.


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