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Watchdog orders company to stop writing fake customer reviews

The Competition and Markets Authority has ordered a company to stop writing fake reviews for small businesses and to try to ensure the removal of those that have been written and displayed online.

The company involved - Total SEO & Marketing, more commonly known as Total SEO - was unable to tell Estate Agent Today what clients or business sectors the fake reviews applied to. 

But it is known that during 2014 and 2015 Total SEO wrote over 800 fake positive reviews for 86 small businesses that were published across 26 different websites which contain customer reviews. 


“We’re anticipating that the reviews will be taken down by the end of March or beginning of April” a Total SEO spokeswoman told Estate Agent Today.

The subject of fake reviews has been a hot potato in the property sector, especially in relation to estate agencies.

Last month we reported that the CMA had updated its advice to all online review sites - including those for estate agencies and other property players - to ensure greater transparency for consumers.

The CMA is writing to Total SEO’s clients to warn them that third parties writing fake reviews on their behalf might lead to them breaking the law themselves. Some of the businesses concerned were in the motoring and landscape gardening sectors but other unidentified sectors were involved too.

A statement from the authority says this is its latest action to ensure that consumers can trust in the opinions that they read on online, following the CMA’s report last summer into online reviews and endorsements. 

More announcements from the CMA are expected in the coming weeks.

  • icon

    savills advertorials need to be looked at also .....

  • Mal McCallion

    About time too.

    Take a note now of your competitors' quoted volumes of reviews and see if any suddenly disappear.

    Also, check whether their headline numbers of new 'reviews' coming on in the next few weeks are markedly less than they have been, compared with recent weeks ...

  • icon

    No surprise there's no mention of a court case on Total SOB's website, and they're still promoting themselves as experts in SEO for Estate Agents.
    Online reviews - the faking of them - looks like an easy win, but it's far from it. The major search engines and others have invested in some surprisingly effective technology that spots 90% + of fake/spam reviews. Also the more fake reviews a company has the more obvious it is.
    Good SEO, like all good business involves honest hard work rather than total laziness.

  • icon

    I was saw property data yesterday, from well known data house, that showed the average UK estate agent sold 74% of all listing over a 12 month period(2014 -15), the average online agent sold 45% and for the last 5 months Purple Bricks have only sold 16% of instructions!! not surprising for a listing service that gets paid upfront with no incentive to value the property correctly. Now this number might be a little skewed cause they have taken on lots of new instructions, but judging by the reviews on their website you'd think they were selling 100% of properties listed with 99% sold at or above the asking price and buyers on average are found within 16 days - oh know, that's just what they tell consumers who go to their website. When is CMA going to do something about this? Their reviews are clearly nonsense.


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