Australia markets close in 1 hour 31 minutes

    -19.20 (-0.24%)
  • ASX 200

    -17.00 (-0.22%)

    +0.0012 (+0.18%)
  • OIL

    +1.18 (+1.52%)
  • GOLD

    +18.10 (+0.78%)
  • Bitcoin AUD

    -1,657.81 (-1.61%)
  • CMC Crypto 200

    -9.73 (-0.66%)

    +0.0003 (+0.06%)

    +0.0011 (+0.11%)
  • NZX 50

    -47.76 (-0.41%)

    +184.95 (+0.99%)
  • FTSE

    -21.64 (-0.26%)
  • Dow Jones

    +4.29 (+0.01%)
  • DAX

    +81.34 (+0.44%)
  • Hang Seng

    +107.39 (+0.57%)
  • NIKKEI 225

    -47.48 (-0.12%)

David and Goliath battle as Aussie fights Google to pull bad reviews after fake sign prompts 'unfair' outrage

Staff from Steffey's Pizza & Kebab had to apply to Google to take down the negative feedback.

A Melbourne restaurant has been flooded with negative reviews after what they claim is an old photo was posted on social media, leaving Aussies outraged. The image showed a sign at Steffey's Pizza & Pasta that offered customers a $5 discount if they wrote glowing reviews online about the food.

People said such an approach was not only unethical but also illegal, leading to many one-star reviews being left on the restaurant's Google page. But Adam Nichani, Grownomics Digital Marketing Agency director who takes care of Steffey's marketing, told Yahoo Finance no sign like that has existed since new owners took over the restaurant six months ago.

He said the owner - who is beside himself with stress and fears he will be forced to shut the business - has spent hours with friends and family applying to Google to take down the one-star reviews.

A Google review over the top of a sign offering a discount for a good review with Adam Nichani on the right.
An old photo of the Steffey's Pizza & Kebab restaurant was circulating on social media, which led to dozens of one-star reviews on Google. Adam Nichani said it was a mammoth effort to fight back against the misinformation. (Source: Reddit/LinkedIn)

Do you have a story? Email

"We have been bombarded with 50 reviews and the same photo is used in every review," Nichani told Yahoo Finance.


They've poured over security footage to see if the sign was planted, but couldn't find anything and are confident it's old.

Nichani said this type of reputational damage could "cripple" a business like Steffey's.

"I spoke to the business owner last night and he was freaking out," the marketing manager said.

"He was so nervous. He was so anxious. I don't know if people understand this. Right now, with the cost of living pressures, the biggest pressure really is on the retail industry.

"That's where people are cutting down their costs. The sales are going down, revenue is going down because people can't really afford to spend that money.

"And, in a situation like this, it impacts everyone."

He feared staff at the restaurant could even cop verbal abuse from customers who think the photo posted on social media is current.

A Google review can be made by anyone, from anywhere with no verification of your experience. You just need an account.

It appears most of the one-star reviews on Steffy's page have been deleted, but some remain.

The owner, who did not want to be identified, has considered removing his Google presence out of fear another wave that could jeopardise his business is just around the corner.

Adam Nichani next to Steffey's Pizza & Kebab restaurant
Adam Nichani revealed it took hours for them to appeal against the negative Google reviews. (Source: Facebook/Reddit)

"It's just not fair on small business owners to kind of go through this," he said.

Nichani said it takes close to 10 minutes to fill in a request form to report just one dodgy-looking review to Google.

Google has told those asking to remove a review to "be patient" as it can take several days to assess.

You get a "one time" appeal, but Google has also warned: "There's no reliable way to tell who's right about a particular customer experience."

This can be problematic for owners arguing against bad reviews, compared to potential trolls with no skin in the game.

Those who may have seen the sign online and piled on Steffy's aren't wrong to feel outrage, albeit somewhat misdirected. There are restrictions on how businesses can influence reviews.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) states businesses can't create fake or misleading reviews about their own product, or arrange for others to create fake or misleading reviews.

It's also against the law to offer an incentive like a discount or free gift in exchange for a positive review as this could mislead future customers.

Incentives are allowed to be given, but it has to be regardless of the tone of the review, or if it's clearly disclosed so consumers know the review was incentivised.

The ACCC said businesses concerned about fake reviews should contact the platform and request removal. But as Steffy's now knows, that isn't always as simple as it sounds.

"Alternatively, the business can respond to the review to correct the public record," the ACCC said.

Get the latest Yahoo Finance news - follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.