Many of you will be aware that a firm of lawyers successfully sued one of their clients who posted a review on Trustpilot - for those of you who are interested the full sorry saga is here.
But today we are focussing on Trustpilot's response, nearly two weeks on (so far - they are currently yet to finalise whatever action they may or may not take).
The story so far...
The customer/client posted this review:
The business - in this case a firm of solicitors - took the reviewer to court and won (£25,000) for 'loss of earnings directly attributable to the review in question.' Trustpilot was ordered to remove the review.
So what other action has Trustpilot taken?
They posted this on the business's listing:
We appreciate that this may be hard to read on some platforms, so here are the key points:
- 'Please be aware that this business has taken legal action against a consumer for a review...'
- 'We strongly oppose the use of legal action to silence consumer’s freedom of speech. As a public, open, review platform we believe strongly in consumers having the ability to leave feedback - good or bad - about a business at any time, without interference.'
- 'This is the first time we’ve seen a business taking such extreme measures against a consumer voicing their genuine opinion. The vast majority of businesses on Trustpilot engage with their consumers or use our flagging tools to report content and resolve their issues.'
- 'Unfortunately, we are required to remove the review which was the subject of the legal action. We are exploring our options to challenge this decision.'
- 'The business’ actions have resulted in media attention and this profile has seen a significant increase in reviews that don’t reflect an experience with the business.'
Trustpilot is no longer accepting reviews on the business, pending 'further investigation'
But the following reviews remain on the business's listing:
The above is almost certainly - to our eyes anyway - written by the person who wrote the original contentious review.
This is obviously written by someone who has no experience of the business whatsoever, aside from reading about the legal action on the BBC website.
Here is the business's Trustpilot score returned in search as of today:
We would like to make the following points:
- The court made its ruling and award on the basis that the single negative review had caused a fall-off in inquiries of nearly forty percent
- This shows the power of a single negative review
- So why would Trustpilot allow the second review by the reviewer in question to remain of the business's listing?
- And why would they allow the 'review' by 'Chris' to remain?
- If the forty percent drop in business as a direct result of the one negative review is true, and the court certainly believe it to be so, what impact will a 'frozen' listing containing the two reviews shown above - as well as the dreadful score in Google search - continue to have?
- Review sites where there is no right of appeal - or the right of appeal is somehow dependent upon paid membership - should be outlawed by the Competition and Markets Authority
- Selling the services of a review site predicated upon negative reviews from unverified customers should likewise be outlawed
- Reviews that are patently written by those with no first-hand experience of the business should be outlawed
- It should be made compulsory to explain to potential clients of reviews sites that there is a free alternative to the core services: review and display of reviews, provided by Google
- Reviews sites should not be allowed to promote the suspension of negative reviews 'pending proof of purchase' as a benefit of paid membership
And a final word of caution...
Do not, whatever you do - and however tempting the pitch may be - fall for any business with the words 'reputation management' in its 'About us' tab. We have a file full of horror stories of upselling, freemium schemes and long-term lock-in contracts. Businesses with pre-existing negative reviews are manna from heaven for so-called 'reputation managers'.
At HelpHound we don't expect any of our clients to sign any kind of term contract; if we have worked for a business for two years - or even ten years - it's because we produce the goods. They are all free to leave at any time.