The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has released a report following an investigation into businesses and review sites who post fake reviews and offer paid endorsements. The CMA requested the expertise of Igniyte to help them with the investigation.
The CMA launched the investigation in February this year, following allegations that companies were writing or commissioning both positive and negative fake reviews to boost their own ratings on review sites or undermine rivals.
The impact this has on businesses – especially in the hospitality industry – can be devastating, supported by Igniyte’s Business of Reviews research revealing that one in six UK businesses believe a malicious review could destroy their business entirely.
The investigation found that some big review sites are not publishing genuine negative reviews and instead, sending them to the company to solve offline. Whilst this might solve the individual’s complaint, it doesn’t give other consumers an accurate representation of that business.
Similarly, it’s also found that review sites are ‘cherry-picking’ positive reviews and suppressing negative reviews. Not only is this completely unfair to the business’ competitors who don’t engage in such practices; but it totally misleads the consumer and can affect their purchasing choices.
Igniyte was asked by the CMA to help them with the investigation and participate in a committee meeting and contribute research. The research used in the investigation was obtained from Igniyte’s Reputation Report, which demonstrated the detrimental effect of unsubstantiated negative online reviews.
Our latest research, the Business of Reviews, found that over half (51%) of UK companies have been hit by unfounded criticism and malicious postings or have been targeted by trolls in the past year.
It also found that one in five UK businesses are now spending up to £30,000 per year trying to deal with online reviews and they expect the cost to rise next year; meaning the CMA’s investigation has come at a crucial time.
Caroline Skipsey, Igniyte’s Managing Partner, was involved in the CMA committee meeting and was invited to speak on BBC Breakfast this morning to offer expert comment on what the investigation meant for businesses.
What’s review best practice for businesses?
Following the investigation, the CMA has advised businesses to take guidance from the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) which state:
- Do not create the false impression that content has been written by a consumer
- Do not mislead consumers about the identity of the reviewer
Review sites have also been warned, guidance given to them includes:
- Be clear about how reviews are obtained and checked
- Publish all reviews – even negative ones, provided they are genuine and lawful
- Disclose commercial relationships with businesses that appear on their site
- Have procedures in place to identify and remove fake reviews
At Igniyte, we advise that paying for fake reviews and placing unsubstantiated content doesn’t fix real business issues – if you’ve got a genuine bad review, deal with it. Listen to the customer and understand their issue and work to address it.
We work with businesses of all sizes to create strong online reputations that can withstand this type of unjustified negativity and we often work closely with legal teams to challenge and remove content on behalf of companies and individuals.
If you’d like further advice on how to ensure your review strategy isn’t in breach of the CPRs above and misleading consumers; get in touch with Caroline Skipsey on +44 (0) 203 542 8688 or at [email protected].