Statistics show that around 25 million consumers in the UK rely on business reviews on the Web to make financial decisions regarding goods and services. Product review sections are among the more popular tools that buyers use before choosing a product or booking a particular hotel. A 2015 report by Reevo, which is a content generation firm, found that 50 percent of those surveyed admitted to trusting seemingly organic reviews from customers than other forms of product recommendations, and user reviews being three times more likely to affect a company’s sales.
With so much on the line, and so many consumers dependent on what previous buyers think, it is no wonder that there is a rise in fake user reviews online. Eight-four percent of marketers believe that online reputation management is essential and businesses wanting to improve their online visibility and marketing approach local SEO agency for reputation management in hopes of finding redemption after a scathing review from an unhappy customer goes mainstream. What business owners and executives do not realise is that many of these SEO’s or reputation management companies use the writing of fake reviews to offset the negativity.
These fake reviews fall under unfair trading and consumer protection and is illegal in the UK.
Findings about fake reviews
Most business owners do not realise that a consumer can be liable for scathing reviews that are untrue, which is why it is important to read negative feedback online carefully. Instead of looking into the matter and going through the process of removing reviews from the publisher, business owners become frantic and do the next best thing, which is to hire a third party company to improve its ratings online.
Whilst there are thousands of great firms out there, if you pick the one who writes fake reviews, your business could end up in hot water.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently found that many consumers who use online information about hotels and other purchases see millions of fake reviews. The CMA estimates more than 23 billion euros are wasted every year on hotels, books, and other services that do not meet the expectation for the buyer.
Even YELP, one of the world’s most popular consumer review sites, admits that many of its seemingly honest comments are likely frauds. Executives of the company recently revealed to professors at Harvard Business School that up to 20 percent of reviews posted on its site could be fake. In other words, a company with 100 positive reviews out of 150 total reviews may in actuality only have 80 consumers giving positive feedback. Twenty percent is enough to change a business’ star rating from three to four marks and vice versa.
What is being done about fake reviews?
The CMA recently took steps against an online marketing firm called Total SEO and Marketing Ltd. The company had several clients for which it posted fraudulent feedback online in 2014 and 2015. In fact, Total SEO and Marketing Ltd. was responsible for more than 800 fake reviews written on behalf of 86 small businesses throughout 26 platforms online. TThe CMA has sent written notification to the firm’s clients informing them that it is illegal to hire a third party to give fraudulent feedback online.
Strict action is also being taken against consumers who defame companies online. While a business cannot hold a buyer responsible for an honest review that paints it in an undesirable light, a business can file legal action with the courts if a purchaser ruins its reputation online with unfounded statements.
There is no limit of financial responsibility that a consumer faces when he posts false reviews that annihilate a company’s integrity. One newlywed couple in the United States was forced to pay more than $1 million to a photographer who they accused of adding charges to their bill not previously discussed. The couple started a campaign that sought to derail business for the photographer and, in the end, the company’s owner was forced to close its doors due to the negativity that led to decreased sales. Unfortunately for the couple who defamed its wedding photographer, the additional charges added to their bill were outlined in the original contract. The couple was, therefore, found liable for all damages caused by their recklessness online since their initial review and subsequent actions against the photographer were based on fallacies.
Such cases of fraud on the consumer’s behalf are why it is important for business owners to be vigilant and calm when addressing negative reviews online. At no time should a business owner seek to offset a negative review with positive feedback that is fake.
The other issue that businesses find it very difficult to have a fake review removed from 3rd party publishers online.
The Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations 2008
The Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations was formed in 2008 to protect buyers from manipulative advertising schemes that lead to financial loss. The act prohibits unfair commercial practices that include influencing potential buyers and convincing them that a product can deliver results that extend beyond its abilities. Fraudulent reviews generated by companies or hired third parties are in direct violation of this since they create a false picture by which consumers make decisions.
Negative feedback from a customer not based on facts is in contrast to the guideline outlined in the Consumer Protection From Unfair Trading Regulations agreement. Negative remarks online about a business that deter other customer from or negative reviews not based on evidence, could lead to legal action against the reviewer.
How do you spot a fake review?
Perhaps the best way to detect fake reviews is to read the reviews. Most reputation management companies hire a few writers, the first ten reviews may appear organic, but it soon becomes apparent that the writing style of every review is similar if you keep reading.
Spotting a fake review just takes a bit of analysis. Pay attention to what the buyer says about their experience and how the company handled their complaint.
It is, however, up to consumers to be knowledgeable and critical when reading customer reviews to make purchases. Buyers should also reconsider posting negative reviews not entirely based on fact. You could find yourself on the defendant’s side of a court if a company takes legal action to rectify damages incurred by the review.