Tag: online reviews

Fake Online Reviews

Online reviews of a product or service can be very useful and most people buying online do check out such reviews first.

Surveys suggest that more than half of the adults in Britain, around 25 million people, use online reviews such as on  Amazon, eBAY, Tripadvisor, Foursquare and Checkatrade to provide confidence in the product or service and find the best deals.

Generally, we assume that those online reviews are honest – by people who have actually used the relevant product or service and giving their genuine opinions.

But, some companies cheat – they pay others to create fake reviews  in order to get more business. Sometimes they try to cover up bad reviews by posting lots of fake positive reviews and so on. This distorts the situation and is dishonest. If a company ‘distorts’ online reviews then they are in breach of the Consumer Protection Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

The Competition and Markets Authority says that shoppers who use the internet to research hotels, books, electronics and other purchases are being routinely misled by millions of fake reviews orchestrated by companies to trick potential customers.

This problem of distortion is not new. Magazine reviews have always been a little suspect as it is well known that the reviewers are given free products and sometimes trips to great places to review the products. So can their opinion be completely unaffected?

Also, the bloggers and vloggers who do product reviews online face this problem as their opinions can carry a lot of weight but they are commonly offered free products to test.  Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

There is further information at


In conclusion,  online reviews can be very helpful but you do have to consider why the author of such reviews wrote them – was there any self interest involved or monetary benefit?

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The Price of Fake Reviews

Getting good online reviews can be critical for product and service sellers and there are various ways to get these that are legal and acceptable.

But there are also the unacceptable and sometimes illegal methods.

A recent spam email describes a “top quality” service and prices start at $49 for a set of reviews.

Not just any old reviews, but reviews that are guaranteed to be –

  • 5 stars
  • Posted from local IP addresses
  • With 100% discretion
  • Posted from verified accounts
  • Sporadically posted to avoid auto detection

Can she provide this service?

That’s unknown but certainly there are people who can do and find their clients amongst the unscrupulous, desperate for good reviews that they haven’t earned.

When reading reviews online, do take the time to consider whether what you’re reading is from someone who has used the actual product or service or could they be talking about anything at all.

“Excellent service”. “Loved the quality of the product”. “Best value ever”. “Most delicious meal I’ve ever eaten”.

These are meaningless general comments as they don’t show the reviewer has actually used the product or service.

Do not ever pay for reviews and consider many reviews before making any decision to buy.

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Are Consumer Reviews Biased

Research shows that it is often the people with strong opinions who leave reviews of products they’ve bought and service they’ve received and the majority without strong opinions tend not to leave so many reviews.

So what about that silent majority?

Research at MIT suggests that some reviewers may be systematically biased or easily manipulated by the presence of previous reviewers comments. This is commonly called “social proof” where people assume the actions of others are correct and duplicate them in an attempt to reflect correct behaviour in the situation.

Imagine you dine at a restaurant and aren’t too impressed by the food. When you get home and want to post a review, you find that the restaurant has very high ratings – people love the place. You may still post a negative review but it is quite likely you will assume your not so good dish was an exception for the restaurant and will hold off on posting that negative view or at least tone it down.

When we see that other people have appreciated a certain book, enjoyed a hotel or restaurant or liked a particular event — and given them a high rating online — this can cause us to feel the same positive feelings about the book, hotel, restaurant or event and to likewise provide a similarly high online rating,

If you had a moderate view on a restaurant meal or event etc. you’re likely not to bother leaving a review, thinking it not worth the time and effort.

An academic study titled “Understanding and Overcoming Biases in Customer Reviews.” had analysis of several hundred thousand reviews from four major online retailers, and highlighted evidence of two major types of bias in the online review system:  social influence bias and selection bias.

Social Influence Bias is when a user’s opinion is influenced by the opinion of others. So, if your business has bad reviews, people who post reviews are more likely to follow suit, and post more bad reviews. If your business has good reviews, people are more likely to post good reviews.

Selection Bias (also called voluntary response) is where the people that submit reviews feel motivated to do so, which usually means that the resulting sample over-represents individuals who have strong opinions.

There is also the problem of how to interpret rating scales. For example, does 5 out of 5 stars means exceptional or does it just mean very good?

A well designed mass survey will put considerable effort towards standardizing responses, as vague and inconsistent response criteria will make an otherwise legitimate survey meaningless.

It can be difficult to get wide ranging responses from  groups of people without ignoring the silent majority but use of incentives can make it possible.

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