A new reviews website has launched that allows people to rate aged care, disability and mental health services and encourages providers and consumers to resolve any complaints through the public forum.

“My Care My Choice” went live earlier this month and is currently only available for service providers in Western Australia.

Founders, Kelly Gray and Emer Long, have both worked in community services and launched the website in response to criticism of a Trip Advisor style platform for community services.

“Critics claim [such a platform] is unsafe for consumers and service providers alike, not geared towards relationships or complaint resolution, and it’s only aim being to ‘name and shame’ providers,” Ms Gray said.

“Despite this, there are many websites of this nature popping up in every state for both aged care and disability support services.”

“I firmly believe you can have a Trip Advisor style service, complete with ratings and reviews, and also offer providers and consumers a focus on relationships and quality improvement.”

“Rather than encouraging providers to resolve complaints offline like similar sites do, we encourage providers to be completely transparent and have the dialogue online through My Care My Choice,” Ms Gray said.

“To protect people, we have put measures in place to ensure any reviews which allude to abuse, neglect or inappropriate behaviour by staff won’t be posted until the issue has been resolved offline. All reviews left on My Care My Choice are moderated to ensure privacy is maintained and any serious issues are dealt with in an appropriate manner.”

The details of all service providers in WA have already been populated on the website at no charge, and businesses wanting control over the ability to update their information or alerts can take out a paid-for membership.

However, businesses that do not wish to be involved in the review platform can request to be removed.

My Care My Choice joins a number of other review platforms for aged care providers that consumers can utilise including agedcareonline.com.au, agedcarereviews.com.au, agedcarereportcard.com.au and agedcareratings.com.au.

While there are few protections in place for businesses that endure unjust reviews, there have been a few cases where companies have successfully sued under the Defamation Act including a seller who sued an eBay buyer and a dentist who has just launched legal action against a client who left a scathing review.

HHG Legal Group says that under the Defamation Act 2005, which has been adopted in all states, businesses with less than 10 employees are allowed to sue in defamation for material posted on online review websites.

For a small business to be successful in mounting a defamation case, it will have to prove that the published material was not the honest opinion of the reviewer, or that the reviewer was acting maliciously. In other words, the reviewer’s intention must have been to damage the reputation of the business, the firm advises on its website.

According to an article on its website, while opinions cannot be defamatory, just because a person labels something as their ‘opinion’, does not make it so. Likewise while truth is a defence to defamation, it may still be a costly and time consuming exercise to prove this in Court.

To protect consumers, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has outlined rules for review platforms to ensure online reviews about businesses are independent and genuine.

On its website, the ACCC says businesses and review platforms that do not remove reviews that they know to be fake risk breaching the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

Reviews may mislead consumers if they are presented as impartial, but were written by:

  • the reviewed business
  • a competitor
  • someone paid to write the review who has not used the product
  • someone who has used the product but written an inflated review to receive a financial or non-financial benefit.

It warns that businesses should not:

  • encourage family and friends to write reviews about your business without disclosing their personal connection with your business in that review
  • write reviews when you have not experienced the good or service reviewed or which do not reflect a genuinely held opinion
  • solicit others to write reviews about your business or a competitor’s business if they have not experienced the good or service.