CANBERRA, Australia – The Australian government’s fair trade and consumer protection agency, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), recently filed proceedings against A Whistle Pty Ltd. for misleading consumers through false online reviews, according to an article in The Guardian.

Electrodry Carpet Cleaning, owned by A Whistle, has approximately 64 franchise locations throughout Australia, many of which are implicated in the case.

The ACCC claims that A Whistle instructed franchise owners and employees to post fake reviews across multiple online platforms, going so far as supplying franchisees with “sample reviews” and offering rewards to those with the most reviews.

These proceedings come less than a year after the ACCC established guidelines regarding how businesses interact with the online review process.

The ACCC says that it has yet to decide how much money it will seek from A Whistle, but the amount could be as high as $1.1 million, in addition to forcing corrective actions.

“It is important that online businesses understand that making or inducing false or misleading representations about testimonials breaches the Australian Consumer Law,” ACCC deputy chair Michael Schaper said. “It can be terribly unfair to businesses that are doing the right thing, when someone else tries to game the system.”

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