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Agencies & People

Purplebricks Canada in hot water over ‘fake reviews’

Investigation finds staff were sent email asking their friends and family to post upbeat messages and star ratings on Facebook and Google about the company.

Nigel Lewis


Forbes magazine says it has seen an internal email sent to 200 staff at Purplebricks in Canada offering them extra holiday if their friends or family post upbeat online comments and star ratings about the company.

The email urges people to post comments such as ‘I think Purplebricks is great’ or ‘Purplebricks is the future of real estate’ on Facebook and post five-star reviews on Google.

An investigation by the magazine found that staff has to screen-shot their friends’ or family’s posts and then forward them to the company’s marketing department in order to be eligible for additional paid holiday.

But the internal email also warned agents not to post any comments or reviews themselves because it would go against both Google and Facebook’s terms and conditions and land the company in ‘hot water’.

The reason given for the unconventional push is that when Canadian hybrid agency ComFree was bought by Purplebricks and rebranded in 2018, its old reviews could not be transferred and therefore a ‘push’ was needed to rebuild its online ratings.

Purplebricks in Canada has issued a statement regretting the ‘isolated and misguided’ initiative and that it would ‘never happen again’.

The leaked email could not come at a worse time for Facebook and Google, both of which along with other sites such as eBay are under pressure around the world to tackle ‘fake reviews’.

This includes in the UK. Last year the Competition and Markets Authority found 26 Facebook groups where people were offering to write fake reviews in return for payment, although these are have subsequently been removed.

January 23, 2020


  1. @Kelvin: in our experience at least half of all agents are breaking the law, almost always by either being selective who they invite to post reviews (the law – the CMA regulations – specifically forbid selection) or by controlling the timing of the invitation (ditto – if a business is inviting reviews – at all – it must enable its customers to write whatever review they want whenever they want).

    On top of this agents, either corporately or individually, will use every trick in the book: rewards for 5* reviews, ‘gating’ (where the agent invites customer opinions using a less visible mechanism and then only invites those that have indicated satisfaction to go on to post a review.

    The reason for all of this? Reviews, especially Google reviews (and good scores – over 4.5) drive clicks and calls. The answer to agents that are concerned that they will get unfair or inaccurate negative reviews? Moderation – use a moderated system run by an outside review manager.

  2. The elephant in this room is why these businesses are using a review site – Trustpilot or Feefo – in preference to Google, given that Google is a) free b) has far more credibility in the eyes of the consumer and c) their reviews are seen by everyone, no matter the search?

  3. How much of this is going on in the UK? Where did the ideas for the Canadian wing come from? Is Purplebricks being managed in Canada or the UK? It has been obvious for a long time that thousands of glowing 5 star reviews, on sites such as TrustPilot, for a set-up like Purplebricks, was highly unlikely to be genuine, so how long before these review sites tidy themselves up, by carefully policing reviews from such sources, before they lose all credibility and value?

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