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.