Monday 10 September 2018

Who is right - Google or Trustpilot?

In yesterday's Sunday Times there was an article about a business called Payday Refunds. Now, we make no comment on this business, but it does serve to highlight the minefield that is the current state of the reviews marketplace.

And we use the word 'marketplace' advisedly, because, aside from Google, reviews services - including our own - are commercial businesses (yes, we know Google is a business, but in this context they provide their reviews vehicle FOC).

So lets look at Payday Refunds on Google...

...and now on Trustpilot (where they are paying - you can tell by the word 'Collecting' next to their - 'Great' - star rating)...

...and where they are using Trustpilot's 'quarantine' system...

Note: review written on 29 August, remains in 'quarantine' as of today's date (10 September).

What we will say is that there are unusual similarities - and a marked anomaly - in the business's five star reviews (all of which we show here)....

...did you spot them?

  • very similar in tone and content (of itself, no proof of anything untoward)
  • People called Leslie, Paul and Jackie have each written two reviews, ditto above
  • with the exception of one written on 29 August, all written on two days last month - and none since

That last point is odd. It may be due to a failure in the business's review gathering systems or some other cause (staff holidays?). We will continue to monitor and report if we see anything of interest.

The important issue

For online reviews to be of any help for consumers at all, they must be reliable, not 'slightly reliable' or 'nearly reliable', just plain and simple reliable. And they must not be able to be manipulated by businesses. At HelpHound we have well-documented issues with Trustpilot's quarantine process - expressly because we think it has the potential to be manipulated by businesses (see here - and for those who want much more detail there's the whole Purplebricks saga with reviews here).

Simply put, we question any business that uses any reviews mechanism other than Google. Why not use Google? It's free, it has credibility in spades, and - way beyond and other mechanism - it has visibility.

This last question - why would any business use any reviews mechanism but Google? - deserves an answer, and it's very straightforward: they are afraid. Afraid that they will fall victim to unfair, misleading and/or inaccurate reviews. And they are right. That is one of the main reasons HelpHound exists - to provide pre-publication moderation. Without this most businesses find themselves in contravention of the CMA regulations by selectively inviting customers to write reviews to Google, for fear that if they comply - and invite all their customers to write a review - they will be unfairly represented.

At HelpHound, we hope that the CMA will take action soon (they have the teeth, it's simply a question of when and how they choose to use them) to ensure that business are not manipulating their chosen review mechanism. Meanwhile we will continue to spread the word: that there is a way. A way for businesses to engage with reviews, on their own websites and on Google, safely and compliantly.

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