The alleged conduct is in relation to review websites Aveling Homes created for its businesses, Aveling Homes and the First Home Owner’s Centre.
The ACCC alleges that Aveling Homes created review websites that represented they were independent of Aveling Homes, 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 Homes 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 Homes’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 Homes also operated the brand ‘First Home Owners Centre’.