Businesses and Regulators Calling Out Fake Reviews

  • Article by Amy Bradney-George
  • November 27, 2015 at 12:53 PM

They should be a way for us to hear what real people think of products, services and businesses, but not all online reviews can be taken at face value.

The power of reviews can make or break businesses – and many are taking matters into their own hands by finding ways to post fake reviews in their favour. Research has found an average of 15% of all online reviews are fake, and in some cases this portion could be even higher.

Popular local listings service True Local, for example, recently revealed that up to 20% of its reviews are fake. The company says it’s invested in technology to help weed out factual and fictional reviews and remover the latter.

“It is a very serious business and for the consumer it can be virtually impossible to detect a fake,” True Local general manager Robert Tolliday explains in the Herald Sun.

“On a monthly basis, through our checks and new technology we are rejecting thousands of reviews.”

Similarly, Yelp has said that in 2015 it has issued 185 alerts about deceptive or fake reviews through its Consumer Protection Initiative.

“Cheaters beware: our team WILL find you.”

In a blog about the issue, Yelp explains that it launched the Consumer Alert program in 2012 as a way to “track down people who might be trying to manipulate ratings and reviews”. It says some of the tactic’s its uncovered include:

  • Threatening customers when they post negative reviews,
  • Bribing customers to remove negative reviews and/or write positive ones; and
  • Posting reviews using fake names and email addresses.

There are also some underground services that offer to post positive reviews for businesses in exchange for payment – a practise that is illegal or at least frowned upon all around the world.

Fake reviews have become such a big issue that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has stepped in, taking a firm stance against this misleading behaviour. In fact, the watchdog recently fined a company $30,600 for creating fake profiles and reviews.

“Consumers should be able to trust that testimonials online are posted by genuine consumers about genuine experiences,” ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper says in a press statement.

The ACCC recommends people look at information or reviews from a range of sources “before making a purchasing decision” to reduce the risk of falling for fake reviews.

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