Some brands found themselves at the close of 2015 with their reputation in tatters. Car manufacturers and sports associations especially seemed to be rocked by trust scandals. It’ll be interesting to see what strategies they come up with in 2016 to rebuild their reputations.

1. Fuelling distrust in Volkswagen

This was undoubtedly the greatest scandal of 2015, and its impact looks set to continue well into 2016. Reuters reported on Wednesday that though it had taken a while for the scandal to have consequences on the bottom line, it was now affecting sales:

Industry data last week showed sales of VW-brand vehicles in Britain plunged 20 percent in November compared with the same month the year before, following a similar drop in the United States.

But there was some unexpected good news:

Its investigations found it had understated fuel consumption, and so carbon dioxide emissions, on only about 36,000 vehicles, compared with its preliminary estimate of around 800,000.

Still, the bill has to be paid somehow…

2. John Does get sued at Amazon

Given that in 2011 a computer science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago estimated that up to 30 per cent of reviews can be fake, it was well and truly time for online marketplaces to start cracking down on them. And in 2015, after a sting by the Sunday Times, Amazon did. In a way. The Telegraph reported:

Amazon, the world’s largest online marketplace, announced it had filed papers in the United States against more than 1,000 people it claims offered to write glowing reviews of titles to help boost sales on behalf of unscrupulous authors or sellers… Amazon claims the 1,114 defendants, termed “John Does” as the company said it is unaware of their real names, offer their false review service for as little as £3.25 ($5).

I wrote a piece on eConsultancy about the issue back in October.

3. Yelp gets away with it… again

Plaintiffs have tried a variety of legal options to hold Yelp legally responsible for the fake reviews that it (some say, inevitably) hosts. Forbes contributor Eric Goldman was on the side of the online giant:

Defendants both explicitly and implicitly acknowledged that some Yelp reviews were inauthentic. Those acknowledgements, along with a common-sense understanding of what it means for a website to host user-generated content, demonstrates that no reasonable investor could have understood Defendants’ statements to mean that all Yelp reviews were authentic.” It’s tough to fight common sense.

But still, the complaints keep coming – at last count (in April 2014) the Federal Trade Commission had received 2,046 complaints about Yelp.

4. TripAdvisor trips up

Which? Magazine posted a number of fake reviews on TripAdvisor in order to show how much reviews affected consumers’ opinions and how TripAdvisor dealt with said fake reviews. The answer was that reviews had a significant impact on TripAdvisor rankings and that TripAdvisor weren’t very efficient when it came to dealing with fake reviews.

Matt Stevens, a senior researcher for Which? magazine said:

TripAdvisor make millions in profits from a business model which relies on your trust, yet its fraud detection systems are clearly failing. Until it creates a more thorough vetting process, the truth is you can’t trust TripAdvisor.

The scandal even spawned a hashtag #noreceiptnoreview.

Check out our take on it all here.

5. FIFA scores an own goal

The International Association of Athletics Federations might have tried to outdo them but FIFA gets the golden boot for the top trust scandal of 2015. Read Wired’s rundown of all the events that lead to Sep Blatter’s mini breakdown. Have a look at how Yelp (see above) was involved as well. Only Loretta Lynch came out well out of this one.

5 of the biggest trust scandals of 2015