Home building company fined $380,000 for misleading the public

Aveling Homes senior management penalised for condoning the conduct.

The Federal Court has ruled in favour of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in its case against Aveling Homes, a Perth-based building company that misled customers through its review websites.

It is the third instance of a company being fined over its representation of reviews, after the court penalised Meriton Serviced Apartments and comparison site Finder within the last month.

Aveling was ordered to pay $380,000 for withholding unfavourable feedback from two of its websites to artificially inflate its rating, a third of which were reviews of three stars or less.

Representations were also made by Aveling, during parts of 2016, suggesting its review websites were independent and affiliated with ProductReview.com. The court found these statements to be misleading.

A $25,000 fine was handed down to Sean Quartermaine, the company's group sales and marketing manager, for knowingly condoning the practices.

Review websites help customers make informed buying decisions and therefore have a responsibility to ensure their integrity, says Rod Sims, chair of the ACCC.

"Companies publishing customer reviews online must be clear with consumers whether or not they accurately reflect the full range of consumer feedback – the good and the bad," he says.

The court has ordered Aveling to abstain from similar conduct for three years and to contribute to the cost of the proceedings brought against it by the ACCC.