We have over 720 customer reviews on this review website. At NO TIME has a "fake" review ever been published by any entity of Aveling Homes Pty Ltd. Between January 2016 and about November 2016 we failed to publish 133 reviews.. Of the 133 unpublished reviews, 88 reviews had a star rating of 3 plus stars out of a possible 5 stars and 45 had a star rating of less than 3 stars out of a possible 5 stars. This omission meant that our star rating appeared as 4.5 out of 5.0, when it should have been 4.2 out of 5.0. These reviews have since been published and are reflected in our current review rating
These are the facts and they can be verified by contacting the ACCC. Any person stating that our fine was a result of fake reviews is misleading the consumer.
The origins of our review website
In 2014 we decided to launch avelinghomesproductreviews.com.au to display the feedback that we had received from our own customers.
At the time, Aveling Homes was concerned that external review websites were allowing businesses to offer incentives in exchange for customer reviews.
The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) stated in their 2013 Online Reviews Guide the following- "The ACCC recognises the potential for incentives to cause biased reviews, inflating review results and misleading consumers in some circumstances"
It was our opposition to the incentivising of customer reviews that led to the development of avelinghomesproductreviews.com.au.
GOOGLE also announces its opposition to incentivised reviews
In June of 2020 GOOGLE announced that "Merchants are not allowed to offer their customers financial incentives to write reviews of any kind. This includes but is not limited to gift cards, discounts on future purchases, or anything of monetary value."
It appears that our opposition to incentivised reviews was well founded.
Background to the ACCC proceedings
In March 2017 Aveling Homes Pty Ltd had proceedings brought against it by the ACCC with respect to its two company owned customer review websites.
The proceedings related to the period January 2016 and about November 2016.
The two company owned review websites published “actual” reviews from "actual" clients of Aveling Homes Pty Ltd. (Aveling Homes and First Home Owners Centre review websites)
The proceedings had absolutely nothing to do with the issue of "fake" reviews or “fake review websites”. Unfortunately the issue was misreported by several media outlets as they did not truly understand the issue at hand.
One of those leading media outlets thankfully corrected their article around 8 months after their original article was published.
Who made the complaint
The issue all began when a private NSW based company called Product Review Pty Ltd who owned and operated a consumer review website called productreview.com.au contacted the ACCC in 2016 to lodge an issue with respect to the Aveling Homes Pty Ltd customer review websites. The source of the complaint is a matter of public record.
What did the ACCC claim following the investigation
In short, the issue raised by Product Review Pty Ltd led to an investigation by the ACCC after which time the ACCC made the determination that during the periods January 2016 and about November 2016 that the two Aveling Homes Pty Ltd review websites;
Our defence was simple. Both of our review websites featured our registered company names in the domain names, both review websites featured our company logos and both review websites clearly stated on each page of the websites that the websites and their content were copyrighted to Aveling Homes Pty Ltd.
It is for these reasons that we believed that the consumer would have understood that the review websites were owned and operated by Aveling Homes Pty Ltd and thus we based our defence on such a belief.
With respect to point "C" above Aveling Homes Pty Ltd accepts that it had not published at least 133 customer reviews on the avelinghomesproductreviews.com.au website, 45 of these reviews were less than 3 stars and at least 88 were 3 stars or more. The omission of the reviews meant that our overall star rating appeared as 4.5 stars out of 5.0 when it should have been 4.2 stars out of 5.0.
Aveling Homes Pty Ltd lost and we subsequently learnt an expensive legal lesson.
Unfortunately, prior to November 2016, it was not clear enough that the two customer review websites:
- (a) were owned and operated by Aveling Homes Pty Ltd; and
- (b) were not connected to productreview.com.au
In late 2016, Aveling Homes Pty Ltd made changes to the two customer review websites to make it clearer that the customer review websites:
- (a) were owned and operated by Aveling Homes Pty Ltd; and
- (b) were not connected to the independent review website, productreview.com.au
Clearly, we are now one of the more consumer educated builders in Western Australia.
We no longer have two review websites. The review website belonging to the First Home Owners Centre ceased to exist when that trading name merged with the “master” brand Aveling Homes.
The avelinghomesproductreviews.com.au website continues to operate and features over 720 reviews from valued Aveling clients.
The First Home Owners Centre recommenced trading in April 2019. Whilst the main https://www.firsthomeownerscentre.com.au/ has been reinstated, the previous www.firsthomeowners productreviews.com.au review website has not been reinstated, however a sample of positive customer reviews does appear on https://www.firsthomeownerscentre.com.au/. These sample reviews represent some positive reviews provided by customers and do not represent all reviews.
On the 14th October 2021, Aveling Homes Pty Ltd removed all reviews that were submitted from customers of its first home buyers brand, First Home Owners Centre and its developments brand, Aveling Developments from this review website. This review website now only features reviews that have been submitted by customers who have chosen to build their home with the entity, Aveling Homes Pty Ltd trading as Aveling Homes. The number of reviews and the rating depicted on this review website is reflective of this change.
Aveling Homes Pty Ltd remains committed to providing the consumer with a transparent experience.