The majority of Australian consumers are reading online reviews with most looking at around five posts before making a decision. This is a great thing for both consumer choice and encouraging competition. However, some integrity issues remain.
If you rely on online reviews be aware that not all reviews are legit. Businesses realise the power of online reviews and in some cases may be tempted to post false testimonials to help sway consumers.
The Federal Court recently found that the Electrodry franchisor posted, and requested that its franchisees post, fabricated customer testimonials about the quality of carpet cleaning services on review websites including Google, True Local, and Yelp. The court ordered the franchisor to pay $215,000 in penalties for making or inducing false or misleading representations.
Seek reviews from multiple sources
Whether you are in the market for carpet cleaning or a fine dining experience, don’t rely on a single source of reviews. Side step the fakes by seeking views from multiple review sites as well as social media. You should also be wary of glowing reviews from contributors whose profile indicates that they have only ever written one review.
Inspect commercial arrangements
Review platforms can save a lot of hassle, but may not always be as impartial or as independent as they seem. Do a background check to see if the review platform has commercial arrangements with reviewed businesses. Sometimes commercial arrangements mean you don’t always get the full picture. In some cases, businesses pay for credible negative reviews to be removed or favourable reviews to be placed towards the top of search results.
For more information on online reviews visit http://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/online-shopping/online-product-reviews
Delia Rickard, Deputy Chair, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.