Service Seeking Ordered To Pay $600,000 For Publishing Fake Reviews
The online tasking platform Service Seeking – where customers can seek quotes for jobs such as gardening, building or cleaning services from businesses registered with the platform – has been ordered by the Federal Court to pay $600,000 in penalties for making false or misleading representations.
Service Seeking admitted that it had falsely represented the reviews published on its platform. While these reviews looked as if they had been made by customers, they had actually been created by the businesses themselves through the use of Service Seeking’s ‘Fast Feedback’ feature.
‘Fast Feedback’ allowed businesses to use a template to draft their own reviews and choose a star rating for their service after completing a job. This draft review was then emailed to customers.
If a customer did not respond to the business’ self-written review within three days, it was automatically published on the business’ profile on the Service Seeking platform.
Between July 2016 and November 2018 about 17,000 such reviews were automatically published without customer input.
“Consumers are increasingly relying on online reviews as a way of making informed purchasing decisions. Deceiving them about the authenticity of the reviews in my view is showing contempt for users,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.
“Online reviews need to accurately reflect the independent views and feedback of genuine customers, or the business publishing them risks breaching the Australian Consumer Law.”