British real estate portal OnTheMarket is at the centre of an argument between Trustpilot and an independent consumer fact-checking company according to agent publication Estate Agent Today.
The independent reputation and online defamation management company KwikChex expressed concerns around the veracity of some reviews of the majority agent-owned portal which were posted on Trustpilot around the time OnTheMarket launched its new website and branding in December.
Estate Agent Today is quoting a KiwkChex source that claims that the company's alert systems were set off by "the odd pattern of [Trustpilot reviews] gratuitously praising the OTM website itself, just a few weeks after their new website was launched". The company also claims that there were "consistent semantics analytics issues and questionable terminology" in some reviews.
KwikChex, which has worked closely with the BBC for the last 10 years on investigative journalism, claims that:
"In just an eight-day period, forty-eight 5-star reviews were posted. In most instances when we see a sudden and intense spike of positive reviews following previous low volume majority-negative review posting it is a sign of either an intensive ‘service and review’ collection campaign or a sign that the ratings are being manipulated.”
Company co-founder, Chris Emmins did stress that its claims cannot be fully proven and are: "opinion based on the available evidence including the fact that, following the spike, the reviews submissions reverted to predominantly negative comments once again."
While OnTheMarket has not directly responded to the allegations, Trustpilot claims that neither its automated systems nor its team of human content moderators found anything untoward with the spike in reviews. In a statement, the company said that:
“There was little evidence or ‘analysis’ provided to us by KwikChex to support these claims. In fact, we’d question the extent of any ‘alert systems’ the entity has in place to look deeply at possible misbehaviour on our platform. Upon further investigation, we currently have no evidence to suggest that OnTheMarket is contravening our guidelines.
“It is true that the business received a spike in positive reviews in December last year — this information can be seen publicly in the Business Transparency section of its review profile page on Trustpilot. This spike in positive reviews came at exactly the same time the business launched its new website, which was publicised on social media.
“As a review platform that is open to all, we allow consumers to review any genuine experience they have with a business at any time, and this includes experiences they have had while searching or browsing a website.
Real estate portal companies are paying increasing attention to their online reputations on third-party platforms such as Trustpilot. When OnlineMarketplaces researched the issue back in June 2021 we found that OnTheMarket had a very low score on Trustpilot compared to its peers and, unlike Rightmove, Zoopla and Boomin, was not responding to reviewers.
|Portal||Number of Reviews||Average Score||Responds to Reviewers?||Organic Reviews Last 12 Months||Invited Reviews Last 12 Months|
Data collected June 2021
Since then, the portal has started responding to reviewers and has increased its net score considerably from 1.8 to 3.8