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Exclusive: Trustpilot review company explains its Purplebricks policy

Online review organisation Trustpilot has issued an open letter regarding its Purplebricks reviews.

In it, the review company - which is often cited by the hyrbid agency in its publicity material as evidence of its popularity with sellers - defends the ‘open to all’ principle behind its policies. 

“Our guidelines apply equally to all businesses, regardless of whether they use our platform for free or purchase additional services from us” says the letter, which has been passed to Estate Agent Today by Trustpilot. 

With regard to Purplebricks, the letter says that no company can ever pay to have reviews removed. “Our guidelines are clear that incentivising customers to leave positive reviews is strictly forbidden. This applies equally to all companies whether they use our free or paid service and this includes Purplebricks” the letter says.

“Equally, we take inauthentic and/or ‘fake’ reviews from those who have not had a genuine purchase or service experience very seriously.  In addition to the manual investigations described above we employ sophisticated software to flag up fake or non-compliant reviews.”

The industry has been rife with allegations concerning the validity of reviews of Purplebricks by customers, with individual agents and trade bodies such as the fledgling Charter for Independent Estate and Letting Agents complaining about how representative and accurate the reviews have been.

The Trustpilot open letter is set out in full below:

At Trustpilot, our purpose is to make the Internet economy more transparent by helping consumers make better purchasing decisions and businesses to improve their service. It’s a purpose that we care deeply about and underpins all that we do.

Our online review platform is built with this purpose in mind. Any consumer can review any business they’ve had an experience with. Any business can invite their customers to review them. And every business with reviews has a public profile page open for all to see.

This ‘open to all’ principle ensures that the reviews on our platform represent valuable, transparent and inclusive consumer feedback.

While there are other review systems that allow pre-moderation, editing or removal of consumer reviews prior to publication, this is something we would never do. 

Why? Because consumers want to see all genuine reviews to make the best purchasing decision.

To ensure that the ‘open to all’ principle is not abused to the detriment of any party we have clear User and Company Guidelines. They exist to explain the rules that all parties must adhere to and the actions we will take if the guidelines are not met. Our guidelines apply equally to all businesses, regardless of whether they use our platform for free or purchase additional services from us.

Our Compliance function is a team of over 40 highly trained, multinational professionals who work exclusively to ensure compliance with our guidelines. They use a combination of algorithmic techniques and human intervention to investigate any reported or flagged reviews, ensuring compliance with our guidelines.

It’s with these principles in mind that we’d like to publicly address points that have been raised about Purplebricks, a high-profile Trustpilot customer in the UK. A small handful of individuals have raised repeated questions and voiced accusations (on our Twitter and other social channels) regarding Purplebricks and their use of Trustpilot specifically.

We take all such points very seriously. We have thus conducted investigations of Purplebricks’ usage of our platform and responded regularly and publicly on social media (particularly Twitter) to the various points raised.

As the frequency and volume of the same or similar questions from these few individuals has not subsided, we feel it is important to share the facts via this open letter.  They are:

- Our investigations of Purplebricks haven’t identified any behaviour that contravenes our guidelines.

- Any company can report a review that it believes has not originated from someone with a genuine service or buying experience, or is otherwise not compliant with Trustpilot user guidelines (for example, if it includes libelous or offensive language). 

- Similarly, consumers can notify Trustpilot of reviews they believe fall outside our guidelines.

When reviews are reported by companies they are temporarily taken offline and investigated carefully. When those reviews are found to be authentic and compliant they are reinstated. Reviews only remain offline when the consumer does not provide the further information requested after a week.  

Should a consumer’s review not meet our guidelines then they have the opportunity to edit their review to ensure compliance (for example, by removing foul language).

Purplebricks report reviews with a view to identifying a reviewer who is not a known customer.  To date, they have reported more 4 and 5 star reviews than 1 star.  

No company can ever pay to have reviews removed and our guidelines are clear that incentivising customers to leave positive reviews is strictly forbidden. This applies equally to all companies whether they use our free or paid service and this includes Purplebricks.

Equally, we take inauthentic and/or ‘fake’ reviews from those who have not had a genuine purchase or service experience very seriously.  In addition to the manual investigations described above we employ sophisticated software to flag up fake or non-compliant reviews.

Persistent violators of our guidelines are asked to cease this behaviour and are subject to legal ramifications. For businesses, this can ultimately lead to consumer notifications on their profile page and suspension.  For consumers, this can also lead to clear warnings and ultimately being blocked from using Trustpilot.

It is our hope that this letter provides further clarity on how the Trustpilot review platform operates.  The points here relate to all consumers and businesses, including Purplebricks.

We encourage any interested party to visit our Support Center and Trust in Reviews site where they can find extensive information on how we operate.  

Kind regards,

The Trustpilot Team

  • John Evans

    https://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/jan/26/fake-reviews-plague-consumer-websites

  • John Evans

    Guardian Money investigation has uncovered fake reviewing on an almost industrial scale, with companies paying offshore contractors to post numerous glowing accounts of their activities, yet maintaining they are from unbiased consumers.

    Many of the fake reviews uncovered by Money were written by computer science specialists in countries such as Bangladesh, India and Indonesia, who, for a relatively low fee, will write and send false reviews using scores of aliases and fake addresses. Many offer their services to western companies on Freelancer.com, which promotes itself as an international website on which you can "outsource anything you can think of". Companies simply post their requirements and wait for freelancers to start bidding for the work.

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    Ha!
    There is screenshot evidence of PBs' clients claiming the LPEs' were a) pressuring them to give good reviews and b) offering financial inducements (discounted fees) if they give good reviews. This information has been passed to (and apparently ignored by) Trustpilot.
    TP talks the talk but doesn't appear able to wealk the walk in terms of policing reviews and it's policy is 'flexible'.
    TP also continues to allow multiple reviews of different companies (LPEs') to be aggregated to Purplebricks PLC. A very clear breach of TPs' own rules and highly misleading.

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    Cant argue with the above comments. It seems TP will only investigate as far as they have to in order to save face. The investigations clearly don't tackle the issue. It's not their duty to police PB's policy on gaining reviews.
    It's no coincidence that I've taken more complaints about PB in the last 3 months from anyone forming a chain with them than they have published on TP. it's also no coincidence that PB have had to remove their facebook reviews where real time reviewers might seek to give their opinion. It's also no coincidence that customers of PB are telling us that they are being offered cash incentives to place 5 star reviews.
    So TP know there's an issue...policing it isn't their problem nor is it within their interest.

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    Can you please send evidence of that if possible? Thank you (Graham Norwood at EAT has my email address or can be found on my LinkedIn profile)
    Chris Wood

     
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    How is it that they score 5/5 on Trustpilot and less than 2/5 on AllAgents? AllAgents reviews are great to take out on valuation to show how PB are really rated by people that have used them.

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    rather ask: 'Why do businesses look great on sites they pay and not so good on ones they don't?'

     
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    As an ex Purplebrick LPE, I can absolutely confirm they get genuine negative reviews taken down. They do this by telling trust pilot that the reviewer isn't a customer and they remove it every time.

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    Allagents:
    Account suspension of Purplebricks Plc.
    With 300,000 reviews, allAgents.co.uk is the UK’s largest independent customer review website for estate agents, letting agents and suppliers to the industry.

    Since 2006 we have been proudly helping consumers share and learn from customer experiences throughout the UK.
    allAgents Ltd provided this managed profile page for PurpleBricks PLC at no cost to them. We did so in order to provide a truly independent and open platform for their customers to share their experiences without any accusation of being selective in the reviews published.

    Due to repeated threats of legal action forcing the removal of content and negative reviews from our website, we have regrettably taken the unprecedented step in suspending the PurpleBricks profile page until further notice (as of the 18th September 2017). We will continue to accept genuine customer reviews for PurpleBricks, however at this time we will not be willing to publishing them.

    Purplebricks customers will also not be eligible to list properties on our property portal.

    A further statement will be released in due course. For further updates please contact us here

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    Why would any business direct their customers to a review site when they can send them to Google?

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