Controversial reviews service Trustpilot insists Purplebricks and Foxtons are not gaming its platform and accuses The Times of “misrepresenting” how it operates.
Over the weekend The Times ran an article based on its own analysis of almost 200,000 reviews on Trustpilot; in summary, it suggested that some companies appeared to jump from a very small number of bad responses one month to hundreds of positive reviews the next.
It cited examples of Foxtons and Purplebricks, as well as firms in other industries. Foxtons, Purplebricks and Trustpilot were quoted in the story, all vigorously denied any wrongdoing.
However, in a lengthy statement left by Trustpilot spokesman Dave Robertson on the Estate Agent Today comments section, the review company accused The Times of “a misrepresentation of the Trustpilot platform and the way we work.”
Robertson also insists it has rigorous systems to prevent firms gaming its platform.
The 485-word Trustpilot statement does not specifically comment on the figures put forward by The Times about Purplebricks’ and Foxtons’ reviews figures, nor does it explain the pattern in which they appear - Foxtons, for example, is accused in The Times of having five reviews in August 2016, with a score of 2.2 our of 5.0; yet the next month is was said to have received 467 reviews, overwhelmingly 5.0 stars.
However, Robertson writes: “No company can pre-moderate, pre-select or censor reviews written on Trustpilot. We strongly believe in the power of being open to everyone and again no company can edit, delay, deselect or prohibit a review from being published on Trustpilot. All companies on Trustpilot must abide by the same rules - whether a company is a paying customer at Trustpilot or not has no bearing whatsoever on how their reviews are treated.”
He denies a suggestion in The Times that Purplebricks, Foxtons or any other firm - irrespective of any commercial connection with Trustpilot - could modify reviews.
He writes: “Companies that subscribe to one of our paid plans do have access to widgets that allow them to pull in reviews dynamically from their Trustpilot company profile pages to their own website. But we do not allow in any way companies to filter out bad reviews on Trustpilot.”
Trustpilot is used extensively by estate agents, online and High Street, as a symbol of their apparent success and popularity; it has also rarely been far from the headlines in recent months.
Chancellors recently issued a press release emphasising that its 10,000-plus reviews on Trustpilot made it the most reviewed High Street agency on the platform.
Last month Trustpilot itself told the BBC that it would change its model to reveal how many reviews each client company had flagged for investigation over the previous year, in a bid to appear more pro-consumer rather than pro-company.
Just 10 days ago it was reported by The Mail on Sunday that Trustpilot had proactively sent a 'cease and desist' legal letter to a new property industry website - Conveyancer Comparison - over allegedly false reviews. The comparison site says these were in any case only test reviews always intended for removal.