The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says it has instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Aveling Homes Pty Ltd (Aveling), a Perth-based home building company, for alleged misleading conduct and false or misleading representations.
The alleged conduct is in relation to review websites Aveling created for its businesses, Aveling Homes and the First Home Owner’s Centre.
The ACCC alleges that Aveling created review websites that represented they were independent of Aveling, and that the appearance, layout and features gave consumers the overall impression that they were affiliated with an independent third party consumer review website, Product Review, when this was not the case.
The ACCC also alleges that the review websites were deliberately managed by Aveling to ensure a favourable overall impression, by obscuring or removing unfavourable reviews.
“We believe the potential for harm from the conduct alleged in this case is significant, as buying or building a home is one of the biggest purchasing decisions for Australians,” ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.
“Online reviews are increasingly being relied on by consumers and they should be able to trust that those reviews are independent, unbiased and accurately reflect the range of consumer feedback received.”
The ACCC also alleges that Aveling’s marketing manager, Sean Quartermaine, was knowingly concerned in Aveling’s conduct.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties, injunctions, corrective notices, a compliance program, findings of fact and costs.
Until 1 February 2017, Aveling also operated the brand ‘First Home Owners Centre’.
The ACCC’s allegations concern conduct and representations made on four Aveling websites:
www.aveling-homes.com.au (link is external) (the Aveling Homes website);
www.avelinghomesproductreviews.com.au (link is external) (the Aveling Homes review website);
www.firsthomeownerscentre.com.au (link is external) (the First Home Owners Centre website); and
www.firsthomeownerscentreproductreviews.com.au (link is external) (the First Home Owners Centre review website).
This is the second action taken by the ACCC in relation to online reviews. In November 2016, the ACCC instituted proceedings against Meriton Property Services Pty Ltd https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/accc-takes-action-against-meriton-over-online-reviews