Fake estate agency reviews could be made illegal

The government reportedly plans to make it illegal for people to write or host fake reviews about companies, including estate agents.

Under the proposals put forward by the government, regulators would be given greater support to clamp down on tactics designed to manipulate consumers looking for services and goods online.

Many homeowners check review sites before instructing an agent to sell or let their property. But this has in the past occasionally led to controversy – see below.

Given that reviews matter, a whole industry has been spawned paying people to produce fake positive and negative reviews.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told the press that the government was “giving businesses confidence that they’re competing on fair terms, and the public confidence they’re getting a good deal”.

The government’s proposals are part of a new consultation on reforming competition and consumer policy to give the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) enhanced powers to tackle consumer rip-offs and bad business practices.

The government said there would be tougher penalties for those who break the law, with new powers for the CMA to issue fines of up to 10% of a firm’s global turnover.

The CMA would, under the proposals, be able to enforce consumer law directly, rather than having to go through a court process, the government said.

The consumer and small business minister Paul Scully commented: “When consumers part with their hard-earned cash, they’ve got every right to expect they’ll get their money’s worth. Cowboy builders aren’t welcome in 21st century Britain.”

 

Trustpilot looking into reviews of estate agents ‘at large’ as it condemns new claims by allAgents

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17 Comments

  1. AlwaysAnAgent

    It would be much fairer and transparent if Government created a regulator of review sites which could be funded by the review sites. They are a law unto themselves as we are all aware of.

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    1. Malcolm Egerton

      They have – and there is. If you haven’t heard of the CMA I’m amazed you’re allowed near a business.

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  2. MrSmith78

    Hopefully we will see the end of Allagents. Unless they become another portal. Wait a minute, they are, aren’t they? Apparently so is Boomin, or will they be a review site too, and a place you can buy and sell cars, along with your grocery. It’s getting a bit confusing.

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  3. PeeBee

    Erm… surely it already is “illegal”, as defined under the terms of CRPs/BPRs?

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    1. iainwhite87

      One would certainly have hoped it was illegal .

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      1. PeeBee

        I would suggest there is no need for “hope”, Mr White – the Legislation is carved in stone and has been ‘Law’ since 2008.
         
        Unfortunately, no-one seems to want to enforce it.
         
        THAT is what needs to change.

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        1. jan - byers

          One assumes that the police and courts have rather more serious crimes to deal with !

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          1. PeeBee

            Maybe they have, jan – byers.

            Let’s just drop all rather less serious crimes” then, shall we?

            At what level of seriousness would “one” like the cut-off bar height to be set at?

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  4. Breaking Dad

    At least on Trust Pilot, you can filter our malicious reviews.  Google won’t, and I’m tired of having my rating shot to pieces by people who are not even customers leaving anything but a 1-star review that Google will not takedown.  Is it any wonder agents look to get fake reviews?  I think no.

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    1. Malcolm Egerton

      “Is it any wonder agents look to get fake reviews?  I think no.”

      Good grief. If that is the attitude of most agents then I fear the industry and its awful reputation is doomed to get ever worse.

      There is a perfectly well-established appeals route to get malicious Google reviews taken down. That is, if they really are malicious!

      Sure, Trustpilot allows you to challenge reviews, but unfortunately you then have to pay Trustpilot until the end of time to have them anywhere near visible to fee-payers, whereas Google reviews have visibility and credibility in bucketloads, and they’re free.

      I wouldn’t trade twenty Trustpilot reviews for one Google 5*.

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  5. Malcolm Egerton

    Anyone who thinks it’s currently legal to get fake reviews of their business posted anywhere online sure needs to read this: http://www.helphound.info/2017/04/reviews-and-law-detailed-analysis-of.html

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  6. Cardiff Agent

    The most effective way of getting rid of fake reviews, is not to rely on the review companies to police it themselves (or any other bodies to) but simply to widely publicise the names of the businesses who have used fake reviews. That would undermine the credibility of those businesses and help to maintain the value of reviews for legitimate firms.

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    1. Malcolm Egerton

      I’m intrigued, you say ‘widely publicise the names of the businesses who have used fake reviews’ – what proof would be required that the reviews were fake and who would be doing the publicising?

      I could give you quite a list of estate agents that are manipulating reviews right now, but I’d be wary of sharing it for fear of being sued!

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      1. Cardiff Agent

        Thanks for your observations Malcolm. Some reviews are patently suspicious, literally thousands of glowing 5 star reviews for Purple Bricks raises questions. Obviously, it would have to be proved that reviews were fake, but if they are, there shouldn’t be too many concerns about being sued. It would not be good publicity for any firm taking the legal route either and there would be a simpler resolution for the firm approached, to identify and thereby confirm the reality of the testimonial provider.  Subject obviously, because of GDPR rules, that they approach them first themselves, but if they are genuine, wouldn’t the provider want to leap to the defence of the firm, whose service they felt strongly enough about to provide the review in the first place?

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      2. PeeBee

        “I could give you quite a list of estate agents that are manipulating reviews right now, but I’d be wary of sharing it for fear of being sued!”

        Reviews where, Malcolm Egerton?

        (un)Trust(worthy)pilot, do you mean?  They are as easy to spot as the nose on Jimmy Durante’s face.  I very much doubt you’d fall foul of any action for sharing that information.

        AllAgents?  Was on their case from day #1 – well documented in the archives of Frau Renshaw’s previous meeting place.

        Google?  Now that’s a completely different kettleful of merde you could boil up…

        I’ve been banging on about various ways of manipulation of reviews for over five years now – and about ‘review’ sites for a decade.  So far – I ain’t been sued by anyone.

        #Blocked by quite a few (including TP itself) – which I think speaks volumes.

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        1. PeeBee

          Malcolm Egerton

          In terms of “fake” reviews, allow me to bounce a totally hypothetical example off you.

          Would you consider a number of Google “reviews” relating to a hypothetical new property-related website hypothetically posted by staff members – some of which were hypothetically posted several weeks or even months before the hypothetical site’s hypothetical launch – as being “fake”… hypothetically speaking?

          I CERTAINLY WOULD!  Purely hypothetically, of course…

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  7. Cardiff Agent

    Nobody should have to get involved personally, so there would be no risk (however unlikely) of being sued. The evidence should be passed to the CMA and ASA, it is supposed to be their job to pursue these matters and it they don’t, they would be opening themselves to criticism, especially now the Government is getting involved.

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