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‘Fake Reviews’ Controversy Blows Up Lawyers Step In

Shortly after we posted a story yesterday that was based on a press statement from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission concerning WA builder Aveling Homes,  a WA lawyer Nick Stagg, a partner in law firm Lavan contacted ChannelNews claiming that our headline which mentioned “Fake News’ was inaccurate, and not supported by the allegations made by the ACCC against his client.

We have changed the headline to now read ‘Fake Reviews Or Genuine?, ACCC Takes Action Against Online Website’. See original story here.

He said that the ACCC’s allegations concern online review websites.  Indeed, the ACCC’s media release uses those very words in its headline: “…online review websites”.

Below is a sample of current reviews that Aveling Homes has posted as being representative of the reviews being probed by the ACCC.

In a conversation with Stagg we asked whether his client would supply the contact details of several people who Aveling Homes are claiming supplies “positive” reviews to the Company. He refused categorically.

In his correspondence to ChannelNews Stagg wrote.

The ACCC’s allegations concern online review websites.  Indeed, the ACCC’s media release uses those very words in its headline: “…online review websites”.

No allegations have been made that any reviews posted on the websites are “fake” (as asserted in your publication of concern to our client), or that the content of any posted review is not genuine.

The falsity of your publication’s headline has the capacity to deny the publisher (and Mr Halliday) the ability to rely on a defence of a fair and accurate report of proceedings in respect of the report.

Accordingly, if that be the case, the online report has the capacity to defame our client’s marketing manager, Mr Sean Quartermaine, who is expressly referred to in the report.

Our client requires that you take immediate steps to correct the error, and apologise to Aveling Homes for the oversight.

It’s not known whether similar correspondence has been sent to the ABC who also used the words “Fake Reviews” in their headline.

Click here to see the ABC story.

ChannelNews then sent an email to Stagg requesting the following information in an effort to confirm the Legitimacy of the reviews appearing on his clents web site.

It read ‘Following our conversation yesterday I would like to formally request that you client supplies the contact details of their customers, who are named as supplying a review to Aveling Homes.

This will allow us to ascertain whether the posted reviews are genuine or “fake”.

We believe this is a reasonable request.

We would also like to ascertain whether your client paid for these reviews.

In addition we would like to know whether the identified clients personally wrote the reviews.

Are you prepared to supply any correspondence between the customer and Aveling Homes relating to the reviews?

Did Aveling Homes write the reviews and then submit the copy to the customer for approval.

Why is there information missing from the reviews.

Why has Aveling Homes not named the staff that the reviewers apparently named in their review.

Do the people _______________blank who were not named in the reviews still work for Aveling Homes.

A posting on the Aveling Homes website claims that the building company does not offer customer incentives in exchange for customer reviews.

They claim that this policy is consistent with Google Review’s “incentives and reviews” policy .

They also claim that of the 346 reviews posted to their web site the average was 4.6 out of 5.

A search by ChannelNews revealed that several so called 5 star reviews had a name, some of them are only a Christian name and no review content. It appears that these reviews have been counted among the 346 “positive” reviews on the Companies web site.

At the time of writing this story neither Aveling Homes or Nick Stagg have responded to our requests.