According to a report in the BBC, an investigation by consumer group Which? has found that people are being offered free goods in exchange of positive product reviews by a section of online sellers.
The representative of the organization conducting the investigation joined a number of “rewards for reviews” groups and was promised free items for writing high-rated reviews online.
Rules set by platforms such as Amazon and Facebook are broken by these paid-for, or fake, reviews.
The trade in false reviews was also unearthed by a similar investigation by BBC 5 live.
Five sellers promised the Which? investigator a refund for products that the investigator was asked to order through Amazon and then write a positive review and share the link.
Honest reviews were provided by the investigator which resulted in three out of five purchases not being refunded due to the not so positive review of the products while the investigator could not connect with the rest two sellers.
A two-star review was given to a smartwatch in one of the case by the investigator, the consumer group said. The investigator was instructed by the seller to better the rating since the product was free and therefore it “is the default to give five-star evaluation”.
In another of the instances, which were related to some wireless bluetooth headphones, the investigator was told that a “refund will be done after a good five-star review with some photo”. However the seller clearly refused to refund for the product after the investigator posted a three star review since it was mandatory to post a five start review to get a refund.
The sellers were effectively “ripping people off” with paid-for reviews, said Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services.
“Facilitating or encouraging the trade of fake user reviews is not permitted on Facebook. We urge people to use our reporting tools to flag content they suspect may violate our standards so that we can take swift action”, said Fracebook in a response to a query by Which? Om the issue.
“We do not permit reviews in exchange for compensation of any kind, including payment. Customers and sellers must follow our review guidelines and those that don’t will be subject to action including potential termination of their account”, Amazon told Which?.
a false, five-star recommendation placed on one of the world’s leading review websites, Trustpilot was able to be bought by BBC 5 live Investigates in an investigative report in April this year. The BBC investigation had also unearthed online forums of shoppers of Amazon who were offered complete refunds in exchange for very positive reviews of products by sellers.
Both companies in question gad said they do not tolerate false reviews.
But how to consumer be safe from fake product reviews?
Experts advice not to rely on ratings but instead a buyer should dig deeper into the product and read the reviews. Buyers also should ascertain when the reviews were posted by checking the dates. One can assume that there is a suspected case of paid reviews if one finds a large number of positive reviews being posted within a short period of time on Facebook groups or other platforms.
One can also identify the impartial reviewer by checking the reviewer’s history and ascertaining the number of times he or she gives five stars to a product. One should also try and understand the pattern of ratings and try and identify whether the ratings at different ends of the scale with very little in between because it is rare that people are completely polarised about a product.
(Adapted from BBC.com)