The Commerce Commission has brought charges against holiday rental accommodation management & booking company Bachcare Ltd alleging it misled consumers by manipulating online reviews that users of its services posted.
The commission brought 2 charges under the Fair Trading Act relating to conduct between 1 June 2017 & 28 September 2018, alleging Bachcare removed negative comments from some consumer reviews before publishing them on its website and didn’t publish any reviews in which consumers had given a star rating of less than 3.5 out of 5. In doing so, the commission alleges Bachcare engaged in conduct that was liable to mislead consumers by creating artificially positive impressions about certain properties.
The case will be called in the Auckland District Court on Tuesday 13 August.
Bachcare manages the bookings & subsequent short-term stays of holidaymakers around New Zealand. It manages about 2000 properties and has over 150,000 customers/year.
The Commerce Commission said online reviews provided an increasingly important source of information for customers contemplating the purchase of goods & services, adding: “Reviews must be genuine & presented in a way that does not mislead the reader about the overall message intended by the reviewer.”
Bachcare was founded in December 2003 by Stefan, Leslie & Gary Preston, of Ponsonby. Their company, Ingenio Ltd, remains a 20% shareholder after UK holiday cottage company Sykes Cottages Holdings Ltd bought 80% of Bachcare in a deal dated 1 April this year.
That followed a short-term arrangement for GPE BCL Limited Partnership (general partner Genesis GP Ltd, a subsidiary of Genesis Private Equity Ltd of Christchurch) to take a 23.9% stake in late 2017.
Sykes’ 2 UK-based Bachcare directors are Sykes’ chief executive for the last 3 years, Graham Donoghue, and fellow Sykes director Michael Graham, whose career has been as a chief financial officer. Sykes Cottages has 13,500 holiday homes in the UK & Ireland on its books.
Local Bachcare directors are Leslie Preston & Geoff Burns.
Attribution: Commission release, Companies Register, Bachcare & Sykes websites.