Legal action over ‘fake’ tradie reviews
THOUSANDS of tradies allegedly faked customer reviews to publish five-star ratings of their work online, a court has been told.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched legal action in the Federal Court against Service Seeking Pty Ltd, for alleged misleading conduct over customer reviews.
The ACCC alleges that Service Seeking allowed businesses to post more than 16,000 fake reviews - along with five-star service ratings.
Service Seeking enables customers to get online quotes and book jobs such as plumbing, painting, gardening, cleaning and removalist services. Professionals, including architects, accountants and lawyers can also offer their services.
The ACCC alleges that from July 2016, Service Seeking used a "fast feedback" form that allowed businesses to write their own customer reviews and choose a star rating after a job was completed.
It alleges that the proposed review was emailed to the customer for approval but if there was no response within three days, the review was automatically published online.
The ACCC alleges that at least 80 per cent of reviews were published online even though customers had neither written nor approved them.
"We allege that Service Seeking's conduct gave businesses a chance to effectively rate and review themselves without any input from the customer," ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said yesterday.
"We know most people these days use online reviews and do put a lot of weight on them.
"You can't have the same confidence in a review written by the tradesperson who did the work, as you would when a consumer has given honest feedback.''
Ms Rickard said it was unfair to businesses that published genuine customer reviews if competitors wrote their own glowing critiques.
"When somebody gets to write their own review, then that is not the consumer's honest view of the quality of the work,'' she said.
"Online reviews should be written by the consumer who used the service, and be their genuine reviews.''
Ms Rickard said Service Seeking risked a maximum penalty of $1.1 million per offence for alleged misleading and deceptive conduct under the Australian Consumer Law.
The Federal Government increased the maximum penalty to $10 million this year.
Service Seeking Pty Ltd is yet to file a defence in the proceedings.
News Queensland has sought comment from the company.