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                                                                                                 10 Nevis Street, Petone, Wellington, NZ. Tel. 04 566-9303

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INTERESTING READ: Fake Online Reviews a Growing Problem

written by Christopher Niesche and published in the New Zealand Herald on January 9 2017 – read the original article here

 

For just US$95, REVIEWS THAT STICK will post glowing reviews of your restaurant on six websites. No matter that the person writing the review is somewhere in Asia and has never sampled your food and never will.

Similar packages are available for lawyers, real estate agents, hotels, mechanics and a myriad of other businesses.

Fake online reviews are a growing problem as consumers turn to the internet for even the most minor purchase or service, yet struggle to differentiate between the real and the fake.

Businesses might not see much harm in it (why not concoct a couple of favourable reviews about your restaurant or hotel?) but Australia’s consumer watchdog takes a different view.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is searching for fake reviews and taking action through the courts.

It launched legal action against Meriton Serviced Apartments in November, alleging the accommodation provider tried to prevent some guests from posting negative reviews on TripAdvisor.

The ACCC claims that from November 2014 to October 2015, Meriton took steps to prevent guests it suspected would give a negative review from receiving TripAdvisor’s “Review Express” email. TripAdvisor’s “Review Express” service sends guests a prompt on behalf of accommodation providers, allowing them to easily post a review on the travel site.

It is claimed by the consumer watchdog that Meriton staff inserted additional letters into some guests’ email addresses provided to TripAdvisor so that the email addresses failed.

It is also claimed that on occasions Meriton failed to send most of the addresses of guests staying at particular properties, such as when the phone lines were down or the hot water wasn’t working.

Meriton, which is owned by billionaire Harry Triguboff, has denied the claims and will defend the court action.

ACCC has taken action on these sorts of things in the past, but Meriton is the highest profile business it has gone after and signals it is taking a tougher approach to the problem.

Fake reviews are difficult to police.

They can sometimes be hard to spot and are even harder to prove. Often it is a competitor which blows the whistle.

Nonetheless it is important.

Consumers are increasingly relying on online reviews when they make a decision on anything from a new computer to a hotel or restaurant to a dentist or podiatrist.

They need to be confident in the reviews they read and to know they will genuinely help them to make better purchasing decisions.

Otherwise good businesses won’t be rewarded and thrive.

Fortunately, there are a few ways the consumer can spot a fake review.

If the “reviewer” hasn’t written any other reviews or their reviews are all very similar then they’re probably fake.

Likewise if they are very specific about the product name – who but a fake review would bother typing “the RU-Px1278a” multiple times in a review, for instance?

Also, they lack the detail and the description of personal experience, using “I” for instance, that real reviews have.

Perhaps we need a review site to review online reviewers.

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