Wednesday 24 July 2019

The CMA act against fraudulent use of reviews

Last month the CMA announced a 'programme of work':

Here at HelpHound we have been warning that this was in the pipeline since 2017. This article was, as you can see, published in April 2017:

And we seriously commend it to any readers who have yet to study its contents.

The first action by the CMA has already been taken: they have contacted Facebook and eBay regarding the sale of fake reviews.

Where next?

We cannot be sure, but if we apply basic logic then it will look something like this:
  1. address review providers (the reviews sites) that allow or encourage businesses to defy the regulations
  2. address high-profile businesses that manipulate reviews in order to give a false impression of their business

Both of these in more detail:

The reviews sites:

Reviews sites are under intense competition from Google reviews, and Google reviews are free, so what 'benefits' are review sites offering businesses? Here are just two:
  • 'Quarantine': in examples we have seen (and documented) the reviews site in question allows the business - the paying business 'member' - to challenge reviews. These reviews are then withdrawn from the site until the reviewer provides 'evidence' that the transaction under review actually took place. on the face of it, fair enough. In reality, this function is being exploited by businesses to a) make it harder for a consumer to get a negative review published, if at all and b) when that review is - eventually - published it appears well down the list of recent reviews of the business, and is therefore much less likely to be read
  • 'Closed reviews sites': sites that only allow reviewers to post a review if invited to do so by their paying business 'member'. This enables businesses to exclude customers from the process altogether.

Manipulation by businesses:

The law states - categorically - that if a business invites any of its customers to post a review it must allow all of them to do so. It also states that this function must be available at a time of the customer's own choosing (on the day of purchase, the next week, the next month or a year later).

There is much more on this here.

Another commonly used ruse: invite reviews of 'product or service A' and then use those reviews to promote 'product B' (an example: the business collects reviews of one product, in this instance a vacuum cleaner, it then runs a marketing campaign for a brand-new product - an electric bicycle - referencing the rating acquired for the cleaner). 

How about inviting the review right at the beginning of the relationship? Upon order or, in one prominent case, for an estate agent upon instruction?

Or invite those simply calling your premises to rate the quality of the call (rather than your full service)?

One simple question:

Ask yourself 'is everything we do with regard to reviews designed to ensure a full and unvarnished picture of our business in the eyes of our potential customers?'

If the answer is 'Yes, but...' then we humbly submit that you should be speaking to us.

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