Purplebricks hits back in ‘fake reviews’ row with allAgents

Purplebricks last night said it has asked reviews site allAgents on ‘many occasions’ for information that would allow the authenticity of certain reviews to be checked.

Stephen Parker, head of compliance at Purplebricks, said: “We continue to seek this information and once again request that allAgents engage with us, so that we can together work to ensure that in this instance there has not been any breach of integrity on the site or abuse of it.

“We hope allAgents will now provide the requested information without undue delay.”

Purplebricks also last night released to EYE a legal letter sent to allAgents.

The move follows the launch yesterday by allAgents of a fundraising bid to raise £50,000 to pay for legal costs in a challenge to Purplebricks.

allAgents is alleging that it has removed Purplebricks from its site after the latter threatened legal action, saying that 29% of the reviews were fake and that the authenticity of a further 23% were uncertain.

allAgents claims that Purplebricks will not give the results of its audit, but Purplebricks last night countered by saying it has been trying to get information out of allAgents to no avail.

Purplebricks said it has been asking for the IP addresses of those who have posted reviews on the allAgents site.

By this morning, allAgents had raised £3,370 via crowdfunding on https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-us-fight-corporate-bullying-from-purplebricks-1

The legal letter sent by lawyers for Purplebricks to allAgents is in full below:

Dear Sirs

We note that we still haven’t heard back from you regarding our Section 5 notice and request for information relating to the Purplebricks reviews that were posted on the All Agents site. Given the depth of explanation given, you are fully aware of your obligations in this respect.

As you know, before our client instructed us, our client tried to contact you twice on this matter and when they did not receive a reply to our request, were forced to contact you formally for the information required.

Whilst we have now given you numerous opportunities and all the necessary time to respond to our request, we are disappointed to have received no information at all, and no reply of any substance. It has never been our client’s desire to take things to the next level of legal engagement with all the consequent demands on time and money.

However our client considers that reviews play an important role in helping people discover the truth about products and services and are an aid in helping them make up their mind as to which products and services to choose.

You will no doubt appreciate and agree as the owner of a customer review site that the integrity of reviews should be a shared concern and therefore we are surprised by your apparent unwillingness to proactively engage with us to get to the bottom of this matter.

We and our client would have expected you to have the same objective: for genuine reviews to be available and for any that cannot be verified to be removed. Do you not agree that this is paramount for the integrity of all review sites, including allAgents?

Unfortunately they are also open to abuse, primarily from competitors.

Therefore whenever our client sees reviews that appear on review sites that they believe may not be from real customers, they must take this seriously. Our client’s claim is not about removing genuine and truthful negative reviews; it is all about authenticity.

By providing the information – specifically, the IP addresses we have requested – you will be helping us to ensure the validity, or not, of the reviews about our company on your website. If you can’t provide the information we have asked for, as per the Regulations, then you must simply remove the reviews from your website; and given the lack of information with respect to those reviews we would expect you to be happy to do so.

We struggle to understand why you will not comply with what is a standard request of website operators and provide us with this information, so that our client can authenticate that the reviews are from real customers. It is impossible that this is not also in your best interests, given that otherwise you become the de facto author and publisher of reviews that are not genuine.

We would also ask that you change the current message you have on your site explaining why there are no reviews about Purplebricks – which is not a fair or accurate reflection of the current situation. In addition we also find it confusing as to why you would prompt people to put Purplebricks into the search box.

We require your response in full by close of business on Thursday 5 October.

 

 

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56 Comments

  1. Chris Wood

    If Purplebricks would the supply the same information for all of their Trustpilot reviews to an independent auditor as a show of good faith, that would be most welcome (in the interests of transparency and authenticity).

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    1. Andrew Overman

      Very unlikely as it may be discovered that the reviews are as genuine as the 1000s of listings that disappeared off property portals, post trading statements! (Allegedly, possibly)

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    2. dompritch134

      Perhaps another call and message to Tom Winnifrith may be due? The bastion of morals,.

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    3. biffabear

      I have 3 reviews on TrustPilot. All 5/5. Yet they give me  a 3* average rating.

      From that, I know there is something odd about Trust Pilot.  I guess if you pay, you get a better rating.

       

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  2. Hillofwad71

    The hypocrisy of it all .Bricks USA site has  3 5* Trustpilot reviews as part of its Home Page  dated the 7th and 8th September They  didn’t launch in the USA until the 15th September

     

    https://www.purplebricks.com/

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    1. g4lvo17

      to be fair the home page does say they there are 25k positive reviews on their UK site. And as you all know I am no lover of Purpleblokes

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  3. dompritch134

    Great to see PB taking these guys to task, they should defend their brand against the onslaught of slander and fake reviews.

     

    Also they make the point, when the search box appears the prompt is PB and the canvassing of negative reviews on twitter, it begs the question of Allagents agenda.

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    1. cyberduck46

      >Also they make the point, when the search box appears the prompt is PB and the canvassing of negative reviews on twitter, it begs the question of Allagents agenda.

       

      This might also be a factor in any court case. There’s precedent to suggest a certain amount of leeway is given when there is good faith but if it can be demonstrated that there’s an element of bad faith involved then that changes things (IMO).

       

      What exactly was posted on twitter?

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      1. dompritch134

        Around 4-5 weeks ago,  I highlighted the fact that Allagents had on 3 occasions actively sought out twitter posts of PB clients who were dissatisfied and asked for them to share their thoughts on AA.

        I questioned AA how independent were they and why no other agents received the same treatment. I highlighted other clients of Foxtons and Bairstow Eves who vented on twitter but no AA request for feedback.

        I got a fairly aggressive response from AA saying why am i so interested and then questioned my own review on AA of PB as a selling client.

        Here is one of the examples https://twitter.com/justinevalent20/status/894837395396407296

        And them posting aggressively to me when questioning them ‘Part and parcel of our convenyancing process’ you told us earlier that you didn’t work for @PurplebricksUK !! Was that just a pack of lies?

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        1. cyberduck46

          Thanks

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    2. Thomas Flowers

      Posted this on the Katrine Sporle article but is also relevant for this article:
      I guess many complaints come from unsuccessful users who have paid for a proper ‘estate agency’ service that does not complete?
      Some complainants may be offered a refund on fees already paid whether upfront or by a loan agreement?
      So a question that TPO and others need an answer to in order to put paid to the ‘review’ battle currently taking place is:
      How many users have accepted a refund and how does this figure compare to the negative reviews posted on a certain review site?
      For fairness and transparency, I cannot recall a single case where I have discounted my completion fee as a result of a complaint.

      Indeed, the last time I altered my fee was to add £700 as the seller did not have the money to pay her man with a van to move her out on completion so I paid him and added this figure to my account post completion settlement.

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  4. Curious george

    allagents Appear to be correct in that they haven’t denied refusing to hand over the audit.

    Why would they want IP addresses of all their reviewers? What would that prove other than put critiques off writing reviews for fear that Purplebricks is trying to track them down to take legal action on them.

    In fact the more I am writing this, the more concerned I am at what Purplebricks is doing with its visitors information they collect on their site!

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    1. dompritch134

      They want the fake reviews flagged by competitors, who knows some may be people close to home?

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      1. PeeBee

        “…who knows some may be people close to home?”

        Don’t pussyfoot around with crass hints and insinuations, dom-boy – just spit it out.

        Type what you mean and press “POST COMMENT”.  Or, put another way or three:

        Scoop up some of the straw-dust you’ve been trying to clutch and mix it with whatever you’ve scraped off the bottom of the barrel – make a 5h!t-pie and get someone to take a bite.

        Chuck your lit firework into the room and see if it goes off with a bang… or a wet f@rty noise.

        Chuffin’ well grow at least one of the proverbial pair and accuse who you’re referring to.

        But to potentially save you

        a) the bother of actually doing all that palaver; and

        b) excruciating and longstanding embarrassment that the repercussions of a finger that was to – purely accidentally, no doubt – point in my general direction would cause –

        I hereby state, categorically, for the record that I have never; and will never, post a review on Trustpilot, AllAgents, Google or any other ‘review’ site in relation to an Estate or Lettings Agency – whether ‘traditional’, ‘online’, ‘hybrid’ or whatever tomorrow’s buzz-b0ll0cks name will be for them.

        I will trust that the above statement boxes off that little hanging question mark good’n’proper, shall I?

        So – who’s next on your (s)hit-list of possible suspects?

        I dare say that, like the legend that was Goose,

        Your list is long and distinguished…

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        1. g4lvo17

          Is it just me or are the Purpleblokes asking for data that is personal and private from another company that holds the data without having the express permission of the data subject or having sought permission from the data protection commissioner to obtain this data, all of which is an offence under the data protection act…… correct me if I am wrong ?

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    2. ama18

      just noticed this after my post. That is very concerning that they are tracking and tracing everyone to their Home IP address.

      I think Purplebricks has opened a can of worms here as to what they are upto. I hope they are declaring all this to site visitors and advising them that this could also be getting used to track them down should they write a negative review about themThis is getting more concerning by the minute

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  5. GPL

    I find Purplebricks “management” of their reviews very worrying indeed

    Personally I find the whole “reviews” process now at risk of being viewed as unreliable

    To quote a review for simply “listing” a property seems only to confirm that Purplebricks are NOT Estate Agents, merely Property Listers

     

     

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    1. dompritch134

      27000 reviews is hardly going to be an unrealiable reflection of a company, yes there maybe a few duplicates or discrepancies, but such vast volume irons out any errors.

      PB is a fantastic model and their TP reviews prove that.

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      1. GPL

        I’ve monitored “14 Trustpilot Reviews” over the last week or so involving Purplebricks.com

        From 14 I believe 8 were Positive, 1 Negative and 5 “Under Review”. Today it now reads 14 Reviews of which 12 are Positive, 1 “Under Review” and the same 1 “Negative”. Read the poor Negative review gentleman effectively being harassed by Purplebricks response (John Guerrero)

        I’m sorry, it still remains “very worrying” to me how these reviews are being “managed”.

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    2. AgencyInsider

      ‘Purplebricks are NOT estate agents’?

      Oh GPL, you really haven’t been paying attention, have you.

      Purplebricks are PROPER estate agents. I know this because they say so in their TV adverts. And because it is on the telly I believe it.

      And do you know what… THEY DON’T CHARGE COMMISSION! So I reckon they will sell my place for free, don’t you?

      I think Purplebricks are amazing. So does dompritch. And he knows all about estate agency. Doesn’t he?

       

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  6. ama18

    ‘We require your response in full by close of business on Thursday 5 October.’

    Thats the way I always end my letters when I enter into dialogue 🙂

    Anyway have I missed something here, I thought Allagents was wanting to investigate but can’t because Purplebricks are refusing to hand over the reviews they think are fake??

     

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  7. cyberduck46

    More information on the section 5 notice referred to in the letter from PurpleBricks’ lawyers…

     

    https://inforrm.org/2014/01/06/defamation-act-2013-section-5-its-decision-time-for-website-operators-ashley-hurst/

     

    I haven’t read it yet but it’s there for anybody interested.

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  8. smile please

    Purple Bricks have had their day in the sun.

    Expect more story’s like this in the coming months with PB desperately trying to keep the ship afloat.

    People are seeing through the B.S.

    Couple with high street agents now having access to an online platform almost identical to PB they really have nowhere left to go.

    When the service is **** and you are no longer the cheapest your business model will start to shrink.

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  9. davehedgehog

    Just been on Purplebricks Trustpilot, there are 4 scathing reviews on the 1st page and then none on the next 4….They just seem to disappear!!

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    1. cyberduck46

      I’m not sure why AllAgents haven’t responded to the Section 5 notice.

       

      Before donating to their legal costs it might be advisable to ask AllAgents for a copy of the Section 5 notice and then follow up with your own questions to reassure yourselves this isn’t throwing good money away.

       

       

       

       

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  10. PJ

    There’s nothing wrong with their request from allagents. Perfectly reasonable. It’s allagents that are being unreasonable and evasive. Purplebricks could find a cure for cancer and would still get all the usual suspects PB bashing on here as soon as an article appears.

    I crack on with the business of running an office and selling houses. I don’t knock the competition and I don’t give PB a second thought during my working day. Unlike some of you on here who seem to have nothing better to do than pick on one competitor and make it your life’s mission to discredit, criticize and question them. Sorry, I don’t get it. It’s odd, sad and a bit obsessive.

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    1. GPL

      As is your mention of Cancer in your comment. A poor choice of word!

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    2. Property Pundit

      Then why are you here?

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  11. Keyser Söze

    Getting the IP addresses would be very useful for PB. They must have hundreds of thousands of registered users on their website. Each user’s IP will be recorded.

    Very each to search for each of those AA IP adresses to look for a match and possibly come up with a name. IP addresses do change over time but it will still be useful.

    I think PB will be looking for former LPEs who’ve left for competitors, their IP will be recorded too.

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    1. g4lvo17

      see my earlier comment regards to data protection, then if they did what you suggest, it would fall under the heading of misuse of personal data and again is an illegal act

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  12. Trevor Gillham

    Personally I don’t read reviews of companies as it’s so easy manipulated, I do however read them when buying products/items.

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  13. drakeco75

    Surely if allagents provided ip addresses that would be a breach of data protection laws?

     

     

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  14. wardy

    ”Purplebricks said it has been asking for the IP addresses of those who have posted reviews on the allAgents site.”

    That just sent a cold shiver up my spine.

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    1. cyberduck46

      Not been leaving multiple fake reviews from the same ip address have you wardy?

       

      I imagine a few people are worried. I’m pretty sure I know one guy who’s left 2 negative reviews on TrustPilot under different accounts.

       

       

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      1. BrandNew

        Have they sold your house yet?

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      2. Property Pundit

        Isn’t there an allotment you can go and tend?

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        1. cyberduck46

          What’s up PropertyPundit?

           

           

          Have I done something to upset you? Spit it out.

           

          I’ll make sure I check back to hear what you’ve got to say.

           

           

           

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          1. Property Pundit

            ‘End of conversation. Last contribution to this thread so don’t expect a response if you have another question’.

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      3. PeeBee

        cyberthrush46

        “I imagine a few people are worried. I’m pretty sure I know one guy who’s left 2 negative reviews on TrustPilot under different accounts.”

        I draw your attention to my response to your #fanboy rival, dom-boy further up the comments stream.

        ’nuff said, I suggest.

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    2. wardy

      I wouldn’t dream of it!

      Not when I have at least 11 devices in the office.

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  15. RichardHill61

    How many agents have received the odd dubious review on allagents where they are likely to have been written by an unscrupulous competitor or disgruntled ex employee!?

    I know we used to get them and were allsgents helpful with validating these reviews? NO, they weren’t or, at least, it was a battle!!

    I am sure some PB reviews are fake! Surprisingly some agents don’t like them but most of their bad reviews are because their service, particularly post SSTC, is poor! Sadly “traditional” agents end up doing the sales chasing because otherwise they won’t get paid!!! (Very clever model by PB!! Part of the business plan I am sure!)

    PB are just using bullying tactics but it might mean allagents take more stringent measures in the future to quantify all the reviews on their website and not just the negative ones!

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  16. GPL

    I get the impression that a byproduct of Purplebricks reliance on Trustpilot Reviews is a “climate of fear” being created whereby those wishing to post genuine so called “Negative” Reviews are deterred from doing so as it seems they will be “pursued” in an effort to have their review changed?

    The whole question of freedom to comment on your own experience is then called into question because your Opinion either differs from others or differs from what the company you are reviewing wants.

    George Orwell is now real?

     

     

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  17. GeorgeOrwell

    Mr George Orwell –

    “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

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  18. Estate_Agent_Memes

    Why don’t All Agents amend the letter and send it back to them. Or even Better send it to Trust Pilot!

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  19. Woodentop

    I wonder if the city is interested in these goings on. Someone is bound to latch on sooner or later with PB making such a song and dance and look at them a little closer as to their market value and wondering if everyone has been sold spin when it comes to service, for they still continue to fail to produce a viable return for their investors. Just the thing that can lead to a company down fall, if seen to be trying to manipulate reviews.

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    1. cyberduck46

      Woodentop,

       

      This is probably worth pursuing from PurpleBricks’ point of view because if they can demonstrate that Estate Agents have been posting fake reviews then it will be positive for them.

       

      The public will ask themselves why they are posting fake reviews and whether they should believe all the allegations being made by Estate Agents.

       

      I’m hoping that now that they have launched in the USA the BOD will spend some time addressing all the misinformation being put out there by traditional Estate Agents and their supporters.

       

       

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      1. GeorgeOrwell

        Reviews as a “currency” are rapidly becoming worthless because of the scope for “manipulation” on both sides.

        I’ll pass on Trustpilot, far too many questions hanging over their credibility for me.

        The only review I can see as credible for Purplebricks is the one that mentions  “they listed my property for sale”. That’s it really and frankly it isn’t worthy of a review in the eyes of real users.

        What next, a Positive Review for me because I simply got out of bed this morning.

        Reviews are fast becoming a farce however it’s agonisingly obvious how much Purplebricks and others rely on this somewhat hollow method of promoting their business.

        It’s time for an Independent Review of every Review, and in this case that is “Independent” of Trustpilot

        Step forward Purplebricks, make available the details of every review user you have used so each and every single one can be independently verified as Positive, Negative or Fake.

        Wake me when that happens please.

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      2. Woodentop

        You seem to have the lost the plot. It is PB in the firing line, it is PB that is taking on another company for alleged fake reviews, that can just as easily back fire on them for their own alleged fake reviews. Throwing stones in a glass house comes to mind. They can’t have it both ways and it is PB that has everything to loose. The media will have a field day with PB if they are seen (not necessarily proven) that they are the bad boys trying to shut up poor reviews in their own interest and in conflict with their public relations campaigns. For it is those PR campaigns that keep them going. Bad publicity is a no no in the USA, they may live to regret taking the action they have. And of course you dogged making comment about their financial failings and went after the High Street agents again. Your post in general is a poor show (rating).

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        1. cyberduck46

          Woodentop,

           

          >You seem to have the lost the plot. It is PB in the firing line, it is PB that is taking on another company for alleged fake reviews, that can just as easily back fire on them for their own alleged fake reviews

           

          I think it is you that miss the point here.

           

          You need to look at this without jumping to any conclusions. If there are fake reviews, either positive or negative, you need to identify the source of them. You can’t just look at who benefits from them and say it was them.

           

          You would hope that the media don’t jump to the same conclusions you are but then you never know because most of them just look for sensationalism. Then they’ll issue a retraction on page 5 or something when the lawyers get involved.

           

          TrustPilot have already come out in support of PurpleBricks being in compliance with their terms and conditions and have pointed out that they seek verification of more positive reviews than negative ones.

           

          You will note that TrustPilot’s policies comply with the 2013 Defamation Act in that they allow verification of negative reviews.

           

          See See https://inforrm.org/2014/01/06/defamation-act-2013-section-5-its-decision-time-for-website-operators-ashley-hurst/

           

          AllAgents though do not have a validation process and if they did PurpleBricks wouldn’t need to issue a Section 5 notice.

           

          There are two issues here, one is defamation and the other is whether reviews are valid. You are mixing up the two issues.

           

          >And of course you dogged making comment about their financial failings and went after the High Street agents again.

           

          I don’t know exactly what you are talking about. And anyway, I am not obliged to make a comment about anything and generally try and add some balance and point out the hypocrisy of the one sided opinions being presented here.

           

          If I see people being biased towards PurpleBricks (that’ll be the day) I’ll comment on that too 🙂

           

           

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          1. BrandNew

            Was that last bit meant to be ironic….?

            Have they sold your house yet?

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          2. Woodentop

            Selective memory comes to mind! I seem to recall a month or so ago you said Reviews were false and not worth anything and here you are again championing PB (as you always do) and degrading the High Street Agent (as you always do) as it suits you…… never wrong, can’t accept another may have an opinion, have to have the last word, even if it not relevant to another’s post.

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            1. cyberduck46

              Things need to be put in perspective. If somebody read all the PB comments on here then you’d think they were guilty of all sorts, yet despite being bombarded with complaints from traditional Estate Agents, the authorities have taken no criminal action against them.

               

              Yet, we have articles where the authorities have deemed it appropriate to take action against traditional Agents and there’s not a peep. Articles where Agents have run off with a clients money and again, not a peep. In fact when reading the recent article on illegal price fixing by traditional estate Agents I noted that some want to turn the attention to franchises and others even seem to support the idea of illegal price fixing cartels.

               

              As for my opinion on review sites, it’s changing all the time. I’ve now spent more time looking at TrustPilot’s procedures and whilst you will never have a commercial solution that will eradicate fake reviews they do have certain automated procedures to check for abuse by companies which I wasn’t aware of. So whilst I treat them with a pinch of salt generally they are more accurate than I originally thought.

               

              Previously I think I was recommending reading only verified reviews and seeing what percentage of total customers gave negative reviews and sampling those to see whether the negative reviews were reasonable or not.

               

              My own experience as a customer has been pretty positive. Especially compared to my experiences over the years with most of the traditional agents I’ve used. Sometimes when I read negative reviews of PurpleBricks and the reviewer says I’m using a traditional agent next time I think that’s essentially the experience I’ve had with a traditional agent, especially when the property doesn’t sell and somebody in the Office suggests you reduce the price. This is after an expert has told you the property is worth such and such.

               

              It would be interesting to see what reviews Traditional Agents got. You really don’t get a good impression when speaking to people and they don’t score highly in surveys in regards to trustworthiness.

               

              That’s it for me today. We can continue this discussion on a new thread in the future if you want.

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              1. Woodentop

                So it is clear you do not favour High Street Agents, yet PB were High Street Agents. You seem to favour PB based on your own personal limited experience and brand other agents as one and the same. You seem to ignore that PB are attacking ALL High Street agents with their publicity and you do not like it when those on the receiving end take up issues with PB. You cannot corroborate your  challenge that they are being false. You defend any issues over PB made that does not show PB in a good light. Strange for someone who makes out they are Joe Public.

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                1. PeeBee

                  Woodentop

                  “So it is clear you do not favour High Street Agents, yet PB were High Street Agents”

                  You’ve taken the nail and tw@tted it square on with a mallet the size of a Volvo there, mon ami!

                  Purplebricks and all their NSPR bandwagon-jumping cohorts have set out to demonise our industry – by telling the world how awful they felt doing such a terrible job of it when they were sitting in branches just like ours(unless they were doing something else – like entertaining on a cruise-ship or something similar honing their talents as a ‘pwoperdee expert/specialist/pwofessional/whatever’ that is…).

                  Their profiles all read from the same hymn-sheet.  A whistleblower provided me with the template:

                  “I was a traditional agent for insert a number – or just put “many/several/countless” if it’s a really really small number years and I felt weally weally bad every time I took lots of money from old ladies who then couldn’t afford to feed their cat who was their only companion.  So I came to work at insert weally weally stoopid name of the main player/also-ran/startup outfit you will be stating you are ‘working’ for even though you’re a subbie/frangipan/MLM ‘entrepreneur’ on a self-employed basis to charge everyone in future a simple flat fee to list your home on a website or two (and in the meantime hope to earn two or three times what I was making previously) because we don’t as a company want to burn in Hades for  heinous crimes against society and homesellers.

                  It is my aim to be able DON’T SAY WHEN to donate ‘x’% any percentage will do – our CEO/FTO/FU2 picks one at random every time quoted of my income to the local cats’ home, so that Timmy, Felix and all the other cats I have made destitute in the past will spend what is left of their lives not hating Estate Agents, like every living organism on the face of the planet does”

                  Nee wonder people fall for it…

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  20. GPL

    BullyBricks springs to mind.

    Transparency works both ways and until both Purplebricks & Trustpilot demonstrate crystal clear transparency then I have no choice as a consumer but to disregard the validity of any of their reviews.

     

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  21. PeeBee

    What a pity cyberthrush46 has ‘done a Lucan’ and quacked off into the sunset, never to be seen again until the next thrilling instalment when he’ll waddle into the room, chuck a damp squib in the middle and waddle off again before it makes a wet f@rty noise.

    I’d really like to know what he would make of this thread on The Arena –

    http://www.propertyindustryeye.com/forums/topic/as-seen-on-twitter/

    in particular, following on from his comment above:

    “This is probably worth pursuing from PurpleBricks’ point of view because if they can demonstrate that Estate Agents have been posting fake reviews then it will be positive for them.”

    what might be the effect he would envisage, were it ever found that there were potentially ‘home-cooked’ reviews on, say, the PBUK section of a review site such as, say, Trustpilot?

    Because some people may think that a wife seemingly mis-spelling her husband of several years’ name – in this instance the incorrect Graham instead of the correct ‘Graeme’ (so not a simple-to-explain typo…) – would indicate a possibility that the wife didn’t type the thing in the first place.

    But – the question will have to wait for another day, apparently…

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