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Fake reviews under the spotlight

CHOICE welcomes ACCC's sweep of fake online reviews designed to clean up the sharing economy.

23 September 2016

Consumer group CHOICE welcomes the ACCC's investigation into the review policies of sharing economy platforms, as part of an international initiative targeting online reviews and endorsements.

The news comes following analysis by CHOICE last year that found 20 long form reviews can be purchased for as little as $31 and 5000 Instagram followers can be tacked on for just $75.

"With many consumers relying on user reviews to help inform their purchasing decisions, it's concerning to think that as many as 15% [1]  of all online reviews are fake," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.

"The boom in the share economy has also resulted in the staggering popularity of user reviews, as consumers share and rate their experiences. Unfortunately, this has given rise to the practice of companies' writing fake reviews to promote their own business.

"Whether you are reading reviews on a hotel booking site, rating a ride sharing service or following a celebrity on Instagram, you need to be able to trust what you're reading.

"It's important to remember that Section 29 of Australian Consumer Law prevents businesses from making or inducing false or misleading representations through testimonials or reviews.

"Businesses that pay people to write reviews who have never used their products or services are clearly misleading consumers.

"It's worth remembering that if a company pays someone to write an inflated review, even if the person has actually used the goods or service, this may also be considering misleading. The same considerations apply to editing or deleting less favourable ratings."

For further information please visit choice.com.au/fakereviews

Media contact:

Tom Godfrey, CHOICE Head of Media – 0430 172 669

CHOICE tips for spotting fake reviews

  • Check reviews about the same business from different sources
  • Keep an eye out for tell-tale signs of fakery such as a sudden increase in positive or negative reviews over a short time frame that are out of sync with earlier reviews
  • Beware of reviews that are allegedly from different people but are suspiciously similar in tone and style

[1] http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2161315