Report Finds Companies Paying For Positive Reviews

A consumer group’s recent report shows that some online sellers purchase positive reviews for their products through social media.

Which?, a British consumer advocacy group, had reporters poise online as reviewers-for-hire. Through social media, they found companies willing to reimburse their purchases in return for five-star reviews.

On Facebook, Which? found “groups set up to reimburse shoppers for Amazon purchases in exchange for positive reviews.” According to the article, seven of such groups (with names like “Amazon Deals Group” and “Amazon UK Reviewers”) had more than 87,000 members.

In order to verify the practice of pay-for-play reviews, Which? connected with five companies, who then hired Which?’s undercover investigators. Which? then ordered products through Amazon, left reviews, and attempted reimbursement through PayPal.

When Which? left lower than five-star reviews, however, the companies refused reimbursement.

According to a similar BBC report, some US analysts believe “as many as half of the reviews for certain products posted on international websites such as Amazon are potentially unreliable.”

In response to the Which? article, Amazon stressed through a statement its goal “to make reviews as useful as possible for customers.”

“We do not permit reviews in exchange for compensation of any kind, including payment,” the company said. “Customers and sellers must follow our review guidelines, and those that don’t will be subject to action including potential termination of their account.”

Facebook also said it does not permit trading fake reviews for payment.

“We urge people to use our reporting tools to flag content they suspect may violate our standards so that we can take swift action,” the company said.

According to a Which? survey of more than 2,000 consumers, 97 percent indicated that they use customer reviews when making online purchases. About 30 percent said they purchased an item due to great reviews but were disappointed with the purchase. However, only 60 percent expressed concern over the possibility of fake reviews.

In making online purchases, Which? recommends that people read user reviews rather than relying on only star ratings. Which? also recommends checking review dates, searching for patterns, looking for great variations in opinion, and verifying a reviewer’s impartiality.

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