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Online Reviews – Who To Trust?

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Monday February 4, 2013 )

I wonder how long it will be before most consumers are awake to the BS that goes on behind some testimonials on reviews sites.

The Sydney Morning Herald has an amusing article on the issue of authenticity of online reviews; and it’s really not all that far off the mark.

I’ve found that when researching products, it’s really not enough to read a couple of reviews; I’ll tend to look at dozens and try to get an overall view – and if some of the glowing reviews seem a bit whiffy, then that impacts on my view of the company.

I’ve worked with companies who have had members of staff or management think they’ve come up with a brilliant idea of posting glowing testimonials while posing as a customer. After all, it’s not traceable and it’s something that’s not illegal right?

Wrong. It can be traced and it is illegal in countries such as Australia.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken action against companies for being in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act (formerly the Trade Practices Act); which prohibits making false or misleading testimonials.

It’s amazing how many companies still engage in the practice though. On a forum I have some involvement with; it’s quite a regular occurrence.

However, sometimes merchants won’t be aware it’s happening. If a company is outsourcing its marketing; it’s quite possible the company handling marketing is sub-contracting out to overseas services (as it’s cheap and that allows the marketing firm to make bigger profits). Some of these outsourced overseas services have a very bad reputation for posting splinks (spam links) and false testimonials.

Ignorance is not bliss – if you have hired a 3rd party to carry out marketing, ensure you know what they are up to. It’s not just the ACCC you have to worry about; companies that are exposed risk turning away potential customers.


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