I have a friend who runs a business – a financial advisor and accountant, whose services I use. She told me a story recently about a mysterious phone call she received a few months ago from someone she knew was an ex-employer who resented her leaving his business and starting out on her own. When she confronted the caller, he hung up and she thought that was the last of it, until she was notified of a new Google review the very next day.

The review in question was a scathing review that mentioned her by name and alleged all manner of professional impropriety. The name accompanying the review was one she had never done business with. When she told me, I said Google reviews are a mess, that’s because they are, but she should report it, though it would take a little time, because that’s how Google rolls. She reported it, it’s still there. I decided to take a look for myself.

Reporting Google reviews is both frustrating and confusing, and seemingly pointless. I’ve tried before. This time I reported and selected what I thought was the appropriate condition from the multiple choices. I then received an email confirming the report I had made, with a different condition to the one I had submitted. “Strange,” I thought. Out of interest I decided to look at the Google reviews of the business that was posting the fake negative reviews and lo and behold, they are a litany of deception capped off by the business owner giving his own business overly positive feedback signed off in his own name.

So, I reported that, then received an email thanking me for the report and confirming the condition, which was entirely different to the one I had reported. This was two weeks ago and both fake reviews are still there. One damaging a reputation and one enhancing one. Both left by an unscrupulous business owner for his own gain. Deception aided and enhanced by a platform that is supposedly proud of presenting timely and accurate information.

Then I came across an article on Radio New Zealand’s site about fake online reviews in New Zealand. I was excited because it was an interview with the general manager, Fair Trading, NZ Commerce Commission. I was a little disappointed as I was hoping for some clarity and direction regarding monitoring reviews. The Commerce Commission has the responsibility for investigating incidents of deception involving consumers in New Zealand and part of that remit is reviews – reviews on websites mainly. And that got me thinking. Who is it that has oversight of the obviously fake reviews left for New Zealand businesses on Google? Well, seemingly nobody and frankly that is a total crock.

I take massive pride in being involved with a platform that actually appreciates the truth of reviews. NoCowboys has measures that prevent fake reviews from damaging reputations and ones that seek to deceptively enhance others. That’s how it should be because the stakes are high. Reputations make and break businesses and they should not be left to whatever ‘systems’ Google has in place. If they can’t be managed then they should not be there at all. I don’t care how ‘big’ Google is or how ubiquitous it is. If they cannot stop fake negative and good reviews then they are aiding and abetting deception that hurts New Zealand consumers and businesses.