Source: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
The ACCC has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against online tasking platform, Service Seeking Pty Ltd (Service Seeking), for engaging in misleading conduct relating to customer reviews.
Service Seeking operates an online tasking platform where tradespeople can quote and book jobs requested by consumers, such as gardening and cleaning services.
From July 2016, Service Seeking’s ‘Fast Feedback’ feature allowed businesses to use a template form to write their own reviews and choose a star rating after completing a job. The proposed review was then emailed to the customer.
If the customer did not respond to a business’ self-written review within three days, the review was automatically published under the business’s profile on ServiceSeeking.com.au.
“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.
The ACCC alleges Service Seeking’s ‘Fast Feedback’ feature breached the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by misleading consumers, as at least 80% of ‘Fast Feedback’ reviews were not written or approved by customers.
“We know that online reviews and testimonials are important for consumers when they choose which business to buy goods or services from” Ms Rickard said.
“Businesses are warned that online reviews need to accurately reflect the independent views and feedback of genuine customers or the business risks breaching the Australian Consumer Law”.
Since July 2016, when businesses were first able to use the Service Seeking ‘Fast Feedback’ review feature via the website, over 18,000 jobs have been completed and feedback provided under the business profiles of service providers by way of ‘Fast Feedback’ reviews.
More information on how the Australian Consumer Law applies to online reviews can be found on the ACCC website here: Managing Online Reviews
The ACCC is seeking declarations, injunctions, penalties, an Australian Consumer Law Program, corrective disclosure orders, and costs.