The Fake Reviews Hurting Your Small Business Today

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Fake Reviews are rife and widespread according to 'Which?' and they could be costing your small business thousands of pounds.
Fake Reviews are rife and widespread according to 'Which?' and they could be costing your small business thousands of pounds.

When is a review, not a review? When it’s written by someone that’s never tried, used, read or listened to the product or service, that’s when. It’s a fake review and it could be costing your small business thousands of pounds.

Fake reviews for goods sold on Amazon’s Marketplace are being touted “in bulk” for as little as £5 each, according to a consumer group. ‘Which?’ found 10 sites openly offering review manipulation services to third-party sellers on the retail giant’s online platform, while also soliciting positive reviews in exchange for free products or cash.

Marc Ford

Marc Ford

Editor-in-Chief, Business Media Owner, Business Coach, Author and Keynote Speaker. Works with over 100's of small businesses every year. Trusted by BBC TV and Radio, Channel 4, Mercedes Benz, Hitachi Capital on business matters.

Don’t Believe All That You Read, See and Hear

The group said the fake review industry appeared to be thriving, despite the practice being strictly against Amazon‘s terms of use and in likely breach of consumer law.

But the rewards for businesses gaming the system are great, with Amazon Marketplace selling an estimated £215bn worth of products worldwide in 2020, with the coronavirus pandemic bolstering and speeding up the online retail trade.

Fake reviews are big business for those that 'review' but more so for those that sell. Who do consumers trust? YBKBS Small Business News
Fake reviews are big business for those that 'review' but more so for those that sell. Who do consumers trust?

For sellers looking to buy reviews there was an array of different packages they could purchase to boost their products on Amazon. Starting at around £13 for a single fake commendation, there were also bulk offers starting at £620 for 50 reviews rising to £8,000 for 1,000.

(Fake) Review and Reward

Just five of the businesses looked at had more than 700,000 ‘so-called’ product reviewers, underlining the scale of the operation. In exchange they were offered small payments alongside free or discounted products.

They even have the option of taking part in “loyalty schemes” and earning themselves the pick of premium items. All the sites Which? investigated gave advice for how to write reviews so as to avoid detection, and in many cases had criteria for reviewers to meet to qualify for rewards.

These included leaving reviews that were at least two sentences long, posting an accompanying image or video, and not posting reviews until at least four days after receiving a product.

To protect consumers from being misled, Which? is urging the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to take action to stop the sites peddling fake reviews. Online platforms, including Amazon, should also do more to prevent bogus commendations infiltrating their sites, it argued.

Widespread Fake Reviews

Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?, said: “More people are shopping online than ever before due to the coronavirus crisis – yet our latest research shows that Amazon is facing an uphill struggle against a relentless and widespread fake reviews industry geared towards misleading consumers.

“The regulator must crack down on bad actors and hold sites to account if they fail to keep their users safe. If it is unable to do so, the government must urgently strengthen online consumer protections.

“Amazon, and other online platforms, must do more to proactively prevent fake reviews infiltrating their sites so that consumers can trust the integrity of their reviews.”

We’re Trying

An Amazon spokesman said: “We remove fake reviews and take action against anyone involved in abuse. We have won dozens of injunctions against providers of fake reviews across Europe and we won’t shy away from taking legal action. However, Amazon and other online retailers cannot do this alone.”

“Customers need to be able to trust the reviews they see online and the systematic manipulation of reviews needs consistent enforcement and global coordination with stronger enforcement powers given to regulators against bad actors. We continue to work to protect the authenticity of customer reviews.”

“We advise customers who doubt the credibility of a review on a product to click the ‘report abuse’ link available below each review. We will then investigate and take necessary measures.”

What Does This Mean for Small Businesses Selling On Retail Sites?

Well, this issue has been around for years, and perhaps it’s now more prevalent because of the rise and rise of sites like Amazon and peoples desire to make money fast in the current economic climate.

There is no easy solution, but trying to make the reviews as personable as possible is a great start. If someone is dealing with an individual regarding a service it’s best to talk about what the problem was before that person helped them and how it’s made their lives better.

If it’s products that they’ve received, possibly one of the only ways they can do it is to be seen using that device or product in a personable video or Zoom call recording. 

It is a tough one, but as a small business owner, we know you rely on word of mouth, it’s how you can prove and show that every review you have for your product or service is 100% genuine and make that a real, tangible value for you and your business.

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Business Coach, Author and Consultant. Has worked with BBC TV and Radio and Channel 4 on business matters. Trusted by Mercedes Benz, Hitachi Capital. Keynote speaker.