Looking for pre-purchase advice, more and more consumers are turning to reviews for products and services. However, not all reviews are created equal and many consumers question their validity after several reports claim fake reviews are more common than expected.
An article by TIME Magazine highlights that while various review sites – such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Google – are implementing steps to identify both positive and negative fake reviews, “the system is being manipulated…and that’s all negative for consumers who are using them to try and make smart choices.”
Aside from company staff and marketers, freelance writers are also paid for reviews praising a company, product or service. In one case, a Wall Street Journal reporter plugged the name of a reviewer into a search engine and discovered the “consumer” was a communications manager at the company whose product she was praising.
Are there any consequences for such misleading behavior, you might ask?
- Endorsements must be truthful and not misleading.
- If the advertiser doesn’t have proof that the endorser’s experience represents what consumers will achieve by using the product, the ad must clearly and conspicuously disclose the generally expected results in the depicted circumstances.
- If there is a connection between endorser and the marketer of the product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.
While FTC guidelines provide some protection from misleading customer review practices, they are only part of the solution. Consumers play a vital role when it comes to identifying and denouncing misleading practices.
As Better Business Bureau (BBB) joins the customer review industry, it provides guidelines to help identify real reviews from fake or paid praise. In the end, the best way to obtain information about a product or service is to become familiar with the review process and use review sites that have a user verification process, such as BBB’s email verification.
Do you think it’s worth looking at reviews before purchasing a product or service? Are you more likely to consider reviews for higher priced items?