I wasn’t surprised recently to read an article in the Daily Telegraph about the many fake reviews that appear everywhere purporting to support the credibility of many different products and companies. The Telegraph was highlighting an investigation that has been started by the “Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)”
It is estimated that more than 25 million shoppers use online review sites such as Amazon, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Checkatrade to research hotels, books, electronics, and other purchases. The report goes on to say that many shoppers are being misled by millions of “fake” reviews. These reviews are orchestrated by companies to trick customers.
The CMA has said that some companies were breaking the law by writing flattering posts about themselves. Others are offering money, free samples, or other “rewards” to people who write positive reviews or give five-star ratings.
Estate Agent Today (http://www.estateagenttoday.co.uk/breaking-news/2015/6/review-website-claims-1-in6-agency-reviews-are-fake) has also welcomed the CMA investigation and reports “Estate and letting agency review site” www.raterAgent.co.uk says an analysis of its own website suggests that 17 per cent, or just over one in six, are fake. www.raterAgent.co.uk claims these are typically by estate and letting agents themselves, or someone that they know, aiming to falsify their or their competitors’ reputation”.
I was interested to learn that the CMA is assuming the presidency of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN – see https://icpen.org/) on 1 July 2015. ICPEN is an organisation comprised of consumer protection authorities from over 50 countries, whose aim is to: protect consumers’ economic interests around the world, share information about cross-border commercial activities that may affect consumer welfare, and encourage global cooperation among law enforcement agencies. CMA is proposing a project on online reviews and dorsements.
Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, Consumer, said:
“Millions of people look at online reviews and endorsements before making decisions such as where to stay on holiday, or which plumber to use.
We have found that consumers who use online reviews and endorsements find them valuable, but we have also heard about some practices that may be unlawful.
We are committed to ensuring that consumers’ trust in these important information tools is maintained, and will take enforcement action where necessary to tackle unlawful practices.
We have opened an investigation into businesses that may be paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles where the payment may not have been made clear to readers. We have also published information for businesses to tell them what they need to do to help them stay within the law.”
My company, Team Discovery, works with many small business to improve their search engine positions and many of our clients have limited budgets to spend on marketing. It seems fair to us that a full investigation is carried out into the fake reviews and action taken to make the internet a more honest place to shop.
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