ACCC ACTS AGAINST MERITON'S RIGGED REVIEWS
Written on the 25 November 2016 by Paris Faint
MERITON Property Services is under fire from Australia's main consumer watchdog, after it allegedly engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct between the dates of November 2014 and October 2015.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will tell the Federal Court that Meriton attempted to rig the feedback on its Trip Advisor site; an independent platform which lists positive and negative customer experiences.
Trip Advisor offers a service called 'Review Express' where a business can enter the e-mail addresses of its consenting customers to prompt their individual feedback.
The court will hear that Meriton deliberately misspelled the e-mail addresses of guests it suspected would give a negative review, preventing them from accessing Trip Advisor through the Review Express service.
ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said that on several occasions, Meriton senior management directed its staff to engage in this conduct.
It allegedly became a more regular occurrence during periods where services or infrastructure, for example the hot water or elevators, failed.
"We allege that Meriton's conduct was a deliberate practice, undertaken at the direction of Meriton's senior management, aimed at minimising the number of negative reviews," said Court.
"This practice was likely to create a more positive or favourable impression of the standard, quality or suitability of accommodation services provided by Meriton."
She also said Meriton's actions had a very real consequence for consumers, with Trip Advisor reviews being among the most influential tools when it comes to purchasing a holiday.
"Consumers rely on independent review platforms like Trip Advisor when making purchasing decisions," said Court.
"If reviews are manipulated to falsely create a more favourable impression about a provider, consumers may choose that provider on the basis of that falsehood over another accommodation provider who has not engaged in misleading conduct."
The ACCC is seeking financial penalties against Meriton, in addition to declarations, injunctions, corrective publication orders and the implementation of a consumer law compliance program.
Author: Paris Faint