Here at Reevoo, we’re quite clear on how fake reviews can be bad for your business. They can destroy the trust between customer and brand; get you in hot water with the law; and lead to your business being censored by search engines. We were delighted when the good folks behind Rip Off Britain decided to investigate the industry and came to visit the Reevoo HQ (otherwise known as a bastion of honest and sensible reviewing practices). They talked to our founder Richard Anson about spotting fake reviews.
It’s also a problem that others in the industry are waking up to. This summer, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority showed they take the issue just as seriously when they published a call for information for a report on online reviews and endorsements.
This report was undertaken in response to rumours that fake reviews were being posted onto review sites; negative reviews were not being published; and businesses were paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles without this being made clear to consumers.
This is of clear concern to the CMA, who act to protect consumers in the marketplace, as the financial benefits of reviews to businesses is clear. According to their infographic, there is a £14.4 billion total spend in the travel and hotels sector, a £3.1 billion total spend in the electronics sector and a £3.9 billion spend in the home improvements sector after reading online reviews. In total, a fact they highlighted on Rip Off Britain, £23 billion of customer spending is influenced by online reviews every year.
£23 billion of customer spending is influenced by online reviews every year. - Highlight to share -
Their advice however for businesses was clear: be honest about how you obtain your reviews. Here are some of their guidelines for businesses looking to make the most of customer reviews without misleading potential and existing customers of breaking the law.
What do you need to do if your business’s website publishes or hosts reviews of products or services?
1. Clearly state where reviews come from and how they are monitored and verified before publishing.
2. Publish all reviews, even less positive ones, if they are genuine and lawful.
3. Explain to consumers when reviews might not be published or might be amended (if they include swearing, abusive language or defamatory remarks).
4. Publish reviews as soon as possible, so consumers get an up-to-date view.
5. Make sure any commercial relationships with businesses that appear on your site are clearly stated, and tell website visitors how this may affect the review ratings and/or their ranking.
6. Flag up advertising or paid-for content.
7. Set procedures in place to detect and remove fake reviews, and act promptly if there are suspected fake reviews.
What do you need to do if you are a business whose products are being reviewed?
Don’t offer financial encouragement – money or gifts – to customers to write positive reviews about your business.
Don’t write your own reviews about your products or other businesses’ products or pay others to do so.
If you work with or for a third party which helps businesses to manage reviews, be certain they also act within these guidelines.
As part of the investigation, Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, seemed to echo principles we hold dear at Reevoo.
“The information contained in online reviews and endorsements can be a powerful force in the hands of consumers. Informed consumers make better decisions, driving competition on price and quality. Businesses have always known that ‘word of mouth’ is one of the most important factors for potential customers; what online reviews and blogs do is to provide a greatly amplified version of this. However, for this sector to work well it is important that this information is genuine, relevant and trustworthy.”