Popular online takeaway service Menulog has come under fire for offering food vouchers to customers to remove negative reviews of restaurants from the internet.
Menulog allows customers to order takeaways online from more than 3500 restaurants around Australia and more than 400 in New Zealand.
"seanomccool" exposed the practice in Australia in a post on Reddit on Wednesday.
"I had an expensive, shitty pizza delivered to me last month that I ordered through Menulog," he wrote of his Melbourne experience.
"I left a review saying the good and the bad. Good - size, speed. Bad - taste, very bad taste.
"It was an extremely fair review. I won't quote it, because a quick google will bring you to the restaurant's Menulog page.
"So anyway, yesterday I get a call from Menulog on behalf of the owner of this business, asking me to take the review down in exchange for $15 credit at the restaurant. I said, quite simply, no. I will not."
In an email to Fairfax, "seanomccool", who wanted to be known only as "Sean", said he had emailed Menulog on Wednesday morning complaining about the request, but was yet to receive a response.
By Thursday afternoon, his post had attracted more than 150 comments and other people had come forward to say the same thing had happened to them.
Fairfax Media has been sent correspondence purportedly between Menulog and another of its customers last year in which a Menulog manager offered the customer a $10 voucher and asked her to remove her negative review published online.
The customer told Menulog her opinion was not for sale.
"This request really does make me wonder about the integrity of the reviews on your site," she wrote in an email to the site.
"I am aware of my responsibilities and must let you know my opinion isn't for sale."
Consumer advocate Choice warned consumers not to rely solely on online user-generated reviews when choosing any product, including food.
"When it comes to user-generated reviews, it's a good idea to take them with a grain of salt because reviews are very easily manipulated," a Choice spokesman said.
Menulog did not return Fairfax Media's calls.
- Sydney Morning Herald