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Rigging Online Reviews - A breach of the Australian Consumer Law

Social media is an important part of any business and is widely used by Aussie travellers to check for recommendations and reviews when planning a holiday. As a business owner you ideally want nothing but positive and glowing reviews, however the reality is that social media platforms often create an easy avenue for disgruntled customers. A recent decision highlights that the ACCC take seriously any attempts to mislead consumers via online reviews.Rigging online reviews - a breach of ACL

The Federal Court found that Meriton Serviced Apartments engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct in connection with the posting of reviews of its properties on the commonly used referral website TripAdvisor. It found that Meriton took steps to prevent guests it suspected would give an unfavourable review from receiving TripAdvisor’s ‘Review Express’ prompt email.

“The Court found that Meriton, at the direction of management, deliberately implemented a strategy to minimise the number of negative reviews its guests posted on TripAdvisor,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.

“In reducing the chances of a customer posting a negative review, Meriton created a more positive or favourable impression of the quality or amenity of the Meriton properties on the TripAdvisor website.”
The good reviews will always outweigh the bad, so you are better to encourage all your customers to write reviews.

Remember the following advice to remain compliant with the ACL if you offer incentives for your clients to post reviews.

Incentives should only be offered in exchange for reviews of your business (its products or services) if:

  • incentives are offered equally to consumers likely to be complimentary and consumers likely to be critical, and positive and negative reviews are treated the same

  • the reviewer is expressly told that the incentive is available whether the review is positive or negative

  • the incentive is prominently disclosed to users who rely on affected reviews.

Want to know more?

If you have a question about this subject matter, please contact Naomi Menon – AFTA National Manager of Compliance and Membership via email naomi@afta.com.au.