Fake reviews a problem in industry

Fake reviews a problem in industry

04 February 2014 by Steven Cross 3 comments

After a nationwide crackdown on unsubstantiated online testimonials, real estate has been identified as a problem industry for fake reviews.

More than 40 businesses across Australia have received substantiation notices over the past six months, requiring proof that the glowing testimonials posted on businesses’ websites are genuine.

Fair Trading Queensland executive director Brian Bauer said false testimonials were a breach of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

"Accurate customer reviews and testimonials play an important role in online consumers' decision making," Mr Bauer said.

"Consumers are entitled to expect reliable and independent information about a product or service."

ACL regulators have identified three sectors where fake reviews were common.

“The restaurant, real estate and alternative health care sectors are particularly prone to the publication of bogus reviews on a variety of services and products,” NSW minister for fair trading Stuart Ayres said.

In NSW, 28 notices have been issued resulting in 18 businesses substantiating their testimonials.

According to Mr Ayres, three warning letters were issued, two businesses were referred for investigation by Fair Trading, one business amended its website and another requested an extension.

Last year, Real Estate Business ran a straw poll asking agents if they believed online testimonials were a good marketing tool – with an overwhelming 73.5 per cent agreeing they were.

Industry trainer Josh Phegan believes testimonials are vital for agents, but suggests making the most of the online space.

“Testimonials can work and speak for you. I recommend shooting a testimonial video with previous happy customers willing to share their experience with you as an agent and describe how your sales process achieved their aims,” he said.

Video testimonials can help remove the doubt of questionable or fake reviews.

Consumers have been warned to be wary of reviews that are ‘too good to be true’ and have been given a list of warning signs to look for.

  •          Testimonials claiming the consumer was originally disinterested in a product but after use “saw the light” and now wishes to share their positive experience
  •          Negative reviews criticising an office, but then spruiking a competitor
  •          Publication of the same testimonial multiple times, or the publication of the same testimonial under a different customer alias
  •          Testimonials that read like a press release or an advertisement
  •          Reviews that repeatedly cite the entire name and model of the product
  •          Reviews that include exaggerated praise or empty adjectives
  •          Unqualified five-star reviews with no specifics on the product or service
  •          Websites where only a few reviews are provided, but of which all are positive

The news comes just days after an announced combined effort across a number of the state-based real estate institutes to introduce a new agents rating and review website.

promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
Listen to other installment of the Real Estate Business Podcast
reb top 100 agents 2016

With a combined sales volume of $13 billion in 2016, the Top 100 Agents ranking represents the very best sales agents in Australia. Find out what sets them apart and learn their secrets to success.

featured podcast

featured podcast
William Phillips on how agents can expand their database and grow their business

In this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, host Tim Neary is joined again by William Phillips to discuss the real estate database and...

View all podcasts

Are dodgy agents being punished enough?

Yes (8.6%)
No (55%)
Only in some states (2.3%)
Not all dodgy agents are being found out (34.1%)

Total votes: 220
The voting for this poll has ended on: April 15, 2017
upcoming events
REB Awards
Sydney The Event Centre 12 Sep
REB Awards
Sydney The Event Centre 12 Sep
Melbourne The Event Centre 14 Oct
Brisbane The Event Centre 18 Dec
View all events
Do you have an industry update?