How to spot a fake review online

These days, online reviews have a huge influence on what we spend our money on. 93% of UK shoppers say online reviews affect their buying decisions and two-thirds say they would pay more for a product or service that has been rated well by others **. But what happens when the reviews we base our buying choices on are wrong?

The problem with fake reviews has become so prevalent that the UK’s competition watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), is currently investigating Amazon and Google to see if they are doing enough to protect buyers from fake reviews. published on their websites.

While it’s impossible to say how many reviews of products or services that appear online are not genuine, Amazon says it has prevented more than 200 million fake reviews from appearing on its site in 2020 alone, while Google says it blocked 55 million reviews at the same time. year. These numbers give you an idea of ​​the scale of the problem, and while so many fake reviews are caught before they even appear online, some are doomed to slip through the net.

So how can you be sure that the opinions you read are genuine? We asked experts for their best advice on spotting a fake review.

1. Seek a balance between pros and cons

Jane Raymond, professor of psychology at the University of Birmingham, said: “Real reviews tend to balance the pros and cons a bit more and include specific details about the actual product. For example, they might say something like: “the release button on the bottom left is a bit sticky but otherwise the stroller is easy to use.”

The CMA also says it’s worth going beyond 5-star reviews of a product or service: “A review can drop a star because the product was delivered a day late. or that the color was slightly different than advertised, but be happy if not, ”says Jon Riley, CMA director of consumer protection. “If their criticism doesn’t matter to you, then you can be sure the rest of their criticism is likely to be genuine as well.”

2. Does this sound like an authentic person speaking?

If not, treat the exam with caution. “Check to see if the language and tone of voice sound natural to you,” advises Carolyn Jameson, trust manager at Trustpilot reviews site. “If the reviewer mentions the company name throughout the review – and more times than necessary – or if the wording sounds like marketing, the review may be suspicious.”

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3. Look for reviews based on real purchases

Some websites, such as Amazon, report when a review was written by someone who made a verified purchase – in other words, they actually purchased the product from Amazon and did not receive a discount. important on this one.

“A verified purchase is more likely to be genuine because it adds an additional barrier to someone simply logging into a site and leaving a fake review,” says Dr Alex Gunz, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at The Manchester Alliance Business School. “If someone wanted to write a fake review on a verified purchase, that would take extra effort.”

4. Read reviews on multiple sites

If you have the time, it is worth reading reviews of the same product on several different websites.

“We all have our website or go-to platform for reading reviews, but it’s always a good idea to check what people are saying elsewhere, to make sure you get a similar story,” Riley advises. .

Watch out for repetition. Did multiple users post the exact same verbatim review, or repeat large chunks of text? If so, it could be a sign that all is not what it seems.

How to report a fake review

Now that you’ve identified an inauthentic review, what can you do about it? Google and Amazon allow you to report fake reviews directly to them. For Google Reviews, go to Google Maps, click on your business profile, and find the review you want to report. Click on More, then on “Flag as inappropriate”.

On Amazon, there is a “Report Abuse” button that allows you to signal that a review needs to be removed.

Under the reviews on Trustpilot, you will see a small flag in the lower right corner. You may be asked for a specific reason that this review is inappropriate: Explain that you think the review is false. You will need to enter your email address and confirm that the information you provided is true.

What are my rights if I have been misled by a false review?

When shopping online, you have the right to cancel an item and receive a refund any time between purchase and up to 14 days after receipt of the item. After notifying the seller that you want to return the item, you have an additional 14 days to do so.

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