Report finds that businesses are being harmed by fake online reviews
24 Jun 2015
Although most buyers find product and service reviews to be valuable, dishonest practices are harming both businesses and consumers, a new report has found.
An investigation into online reviews and product endorsements by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has found that more than half of UK adults (54%) use online reviews, and that 6% use blogs before making purchases.
Most buyers who used reviews and endorsements found that the product or service they bought matched up to their expectations. However, the CMA has also reported instances of potentially misleading practices, including:
- fake reviews being posted onto review sites, including malicious reviews on competitor sites
- negative reviews not being published
- businesses paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles without this being made clear to consumers.
The authority also heard allegations of consumers using reviews to get money off. "Consumers may be using the threat of a poor review to 'blackmail' businesses into providing some concession, such as a price discount," the report said.
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.”
The CMA has published an advice and best practice guide for businesses concerning using reviews and endorsements, which can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/online-reviews-and-endorsements-advice-for-businesses