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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

Watchdog bans "most trustworthy" statement by raterAgent website

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a statement by the estate and letting agency review site raterAgent describing it as the "most trustworthy” of its kind.

The site has also been told it must have “adequate evidence” before making comparative claims of the kind that has now landed it in hot water.

The complaint to the ASA came from allAgents Ltd., a long-standing rival review website which yesterday released its annual awards for agents

allAgents complained to the ASA about the text on raterAgent which stated: "rateragent.co.uk is the UK's most trustworthy site for getting proof of the quality of an estate or letting agent's service. Using ... checked and verified reviews, from people just like you that have gone through the same process ...".

allAgents claimed to the ASA that is was not possible to verify that all reviews were genuine, and therefore challenged whether the claim that raterAgent was the "most trustworthy" was misleading and could be substantiated.

In its response to the ASA’s investigation, raterAgents said its system for establishing the trustworthiness of reviews consisted of 13 algorithmic checks - for example, IP address, email address and similar - followed by detailed human moderation such as checking social media and other resources. 

raterAgent told the ASA that authors of reviews that were considered suspicious were then informed that their review would not be shown on raterAgent. 

raterAgent said factual information such as branch contact details and staff names could be updated by a branch in real time without charge; that queries from other parties would receive a response within 24 hours; and that an agent could appeal the inclusion or exclusion of a review by supplying evidence to raterAgent. 

In making a judgement, the ASA considered the claim suggested that the process by which reviews were checked for authenticity by raterAgent was more demanding and more stringent than the processes operated by their competitors, and that the information provided to consumers by raterAgent was more reliable than that provided by their competitors. 

“We noted the procedures raterAgent had in place to check reviews and that raterAgent had identified practices adopted by their competitors which they considered were likely to raise concerns about reliability and trustworthiness” said the statement from the ASA. 

“They included an absence of information about the respective amounts agents paid to be featured; the payment of fees by agents to correct errors; and discrepancies in the order in which agents were listed, with the first agents listed not necessarily being the ones who had received the most positive reviews while some agents with poor reviews were not listed at all. 

“Although we considered those points were likely to be important to consumers, we also noted that the comparative information supplied by raterAgent stated that there was no readily-available information regarding how reviews were verified and how many were rejected by their competitors. 

“Because of that, we considered we had not seen sufficient comparative evidence to be able to determine whether raterAgent's procedures for checking reviews, and consequently the trustworthiness of those reviews, was superior to the procedures of their competitors. 

“Therefore, we concluded that raterAgent had not substantiated the claim and that it was likely to mislead.”

raterAgent has been told that the claim must not appear again in its current form. “We told raterAgent to ensure they held adequate evidence for comparative claims in future” said an ASA statement.

raterAgent has issued a lengthy press release in response to the judgement claiming: “Essentially the silence of raterAgent’s competitors on their checking and rejection criteria mean that raterAgent can’t exhaustively prove its highly-visible ones are more trustworthy.”

The site’s chief executive Mal McCallion claims it is his rival’s “refusal to share information on the number of review that they reject which is specifically stated by the ASA as the reason for this judgement.”

  • Mal McCallion

    Wow,that headline is incredibly misleading. The word objected to is 'most', not 'trustworthy'. If we'd used the 'Carlsberg' approach, 'Probably...' in front of 'the most trustworthy', apparently there would have been no issue!

    On a serious note, the ASA ruled that is is the silence of our competitors is, in their view, what makes the comparative word 'most' unable to be used. If you're interested, have a read for yourselves: https://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2015/9/One-Moment-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_303131.aspx#.VfjuWBFViko

    Why has the story been spun this way? I'm sure people will make up their own minds. What's clear is that we're making a significant impact in a long-established and very cosy area of our industry and we're not going to stop because it's uncomfortable for others.

    If anyone wants to discuss this with me, I'd love to talk about it. Email mal@rateragent.co.uk or call 0777 9099 782. Trustworthiness and transparency - what raterAgent is all about.

    Cheers, Mal

  • Joshua Rayner

    EAT's owner seems to be number 1 again on Allagents year after year. funny that

  • Simon Shinerock

    Joshua, what exactly do you find funny? What exactly are you implying? I'm serious, you better have a good answer

  • Joshua Rayner

    I just thought it was funny that in the middle of an article about raterAgent there's a link through to allAgents (not raterAgent) with choices gold award listed :)

    Just a joke mate,you know what im like!

    Simon Shinerock

    Good answer

     
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    Agency review sites reporting each other to the ASA - sounds like a pair of estate agents!

  • Simon Shinerock

    Joshua Rayner, I have just read your comment on 'The other site' in which you again make a potentially libellous comment Directed at Choices. For the record, we do not pay to be top of the leaderboard in AllAgents and equally I have had no influence whatsoever on this article, or any of our news stories. Actually, from a personal perspective I don't feel Choices have had as much recognition as they deserve for what is an amazing achievement by any standard. The fact that our achievement is not as far as I can see, reported at all on 'the other site' speaks volumes I feel.

    We have worked very hard to train our staff to provide excellent service and to encourage their clients to post a good review if they are happy. Clearly I cannot guarantee that every single review out of over four thousand is 100% genuine but I can categorically state that as a company we train our staff to only seek honest reviews and that if we found a member of staff was abusing the review process they would be disciplined accordingly. I think you owe me an apology Mr Rayner, a public one.

  • Joshua Rayner

    Simon there was no offence intended and of course I'm sorry if any was implied. This whole thing is over one word buried on raterAgent's 'About Us' section - the word 'most' - and that's it. I certainly don't want to cause any issues and won't be making jokes like this again.

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    Joshua,
    I now feel compelled to join your thread as some of the comments are misleading and untrue.

    Firstly, let me make this clear, unlike other national award schemes, allAgents.co.uk fund our awards in full and every agent listed on our website is entered free of charge.
    In this way we can guarantee that NO AGENT can influence the outcome.

    Whilst some firms have recognised the value in upgrading to our 'premium support plus' package, what you will find is that most of the award winners are actually free listing agents.

    Choices have won their awards on their own merit and on their customer feedback. No one from allAgents has ever met any of the staff or management team from Choices, including Simon Shinerock. The have achieved their recognition from their customers for their hard work and customer service excellence. Additionally, as a firm that are also members of our 'Transparent Agent Scheme' their reviews are subject to additional random moderation checks. Whereas we can accept or reject your critiques about allAgents, we are in agreement that Simon and Choices were well deserving of your apology.

    As you know we brought our concerns to you directly many months ago regarding your repeated 'most trustworthy' claims, however you chose to ignore them. It was also at the time when your firm was seeking crowd funding using these claims within your video pitch.

    It is also interesting to note that a lot of your opinions have changed since you approached allAgents requesting to work with us to help grow your own businesses, which as you know we declined.

    We have no issues with competition however we do have to draw a line when it comes to misleading consumers into believing that reviews on your website are 'more trustworthy' than ours.

    Martin McKenzie
    allAgents.co.uk

     
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    I have to say I've used both ratings sites. We have been top in our regions for both sites however I can say in my experience with both sites Rater Agent is the most Trustworthy in my opinion.

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    Wow! YOU COULDN'T WRITE THIS!
    Firstly, Joshua's review website standing up and refusing to accept the ASA's recommendations and then having to crawl on his knees and beg Mr Shinerock for forgiveness, all in the space of one day! So much for claiming to be an independent review website who stands up to fakery and expose agents who try to 'game' the system.
    As soon as any agent complained of a negative review he would crap himself and have it removed.

    It's also interesting to note that Property Industry Eye has changed the editorial no fewer than 3 times today, the heading started off as "Challenger website raterAgent slapped down by advertising watchdog " and has now been morphed into "raterAgent told by advertising watchdog it cannot say ‘most’ trustworthy" - who's in whose pocket?

  • Simon Shinerock

    Never trust an honest man, or at least a man who claims to be honest, like, hmm politicians

  • Mal McCallion

    Blimey, missed this - all because of the word 'most'!

    Martin, you've publicly confirmed above that allAgents treats reviews of paying ('Transparent') agents in a different way to those who don't. Shouldn't every review be treated the same?

    Whether or not raterAgent can claim to be 'most' trustworthy, we're going to get on with doing what we do, which is check every submission that comes in with a human being and publish the number of fakes we reject (1 in 6 currently).

    If that doesn't make us the 'most' trustworthy - because allAgents won't do the same, so we can't compare - it's certainly something uniquely transparent. And we're not going to be bullied out of the way … :)

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    Wow how many reads.
    Most trustworthy. The arrogance of Malcolm Macallion. Its still on his or is it Joshua Rayners website. 'UK's most trustworthy website with verified reviews'. The ASA are should also investigate the use of 'best' where the website states 'rateragent.co.uk provides the best information for home-hunters in the UK'. Who says so? It a start up company and has very few reviews and nearly all damningly positive. Honest Nigel, Martin and Simon should get together. Established company's stay around for a reason.

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    Mal,

    'Unlike other review sites, agents are therefore incentivised to simply encourage real reviews from real clients, just like you – and to stand or fall on what genuine customers are saying about them.' – (Direct from your website.)

    Please explain how a site that gets the agents to get their staff to sell your business (rating agents) to them (the public). As an agent if I was to back this quite ridiculous business model then the only clients that would be told about your site (to leave comments) are ones that we know had the full experience and would give the feedback we would like to have on there.

    Prospective vendors will only know about the site when I/or my team tell them to go on there to see how good/great we are, if bad views it (it is a site that would be used by my competitors to drive people to see the comments). Would you say this is a better tool for an estates agents (and give the most trust worthy answer you can please) and more trustworthy than a video of my clients; vendors, buyers, tenants, etc. And as stated in Property Eye about agents getting the advantage of google SEO that does not cost me a penny and people are much more likely to stumble across it whilst driving traffic to my website, therefore calling us out, a new leads, and not just something to use as a closing tool for business?

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts Mal.

    James

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    Good suggestion James Paul. Do you know whether All Agents or Rateragent (or are they now out of business since the ASA direction) allow an upload facility like that because it sounds a terrific idea. Real reviews are what I am after which I have seen upon my local agents site. https://youtu.be/FhjX2drHlNQ

     
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