A few weeks ago (September 13), Fair Go presented a segment on fake reviews – interviewing two women that had a dissatisfying experience with a local moving company and a founder of a site than analyses fake reviews, based in New York. Fair Go has been a Kiwi staple for decades – exposing unsavoury and often illegal business practises to provide New Zealanders with a “fair go” but in this instance they dropped the ball. Why? Well ,if you’re going to craft a story about reviews, feedback, fake reviews, why not talk to the New Zealand owned specialists in that field, rather than interview someone in the US to get a simplistic and cursory analysis? After all, NoCowboys has provided Kiwis with independent, authenticated reviews for over 15 years.

The focus of this ‘investigation’ was a local moving company that heavily inflated its final prices and then intimidated two women who used their services when they left negative feedback on a moving reviews website. But there were red flags before the company was ever commissioned for service and it would have been incredibly helpful if Fair Go had addressed them.

Firstly, both women read reviews – but on the company’s website. They didn’t seek out other reviews and they relied on the stories presented on the site as being legitimate. Of course we find out later that they were highly questionable and the images of the reviewers were stock photos used in other doubtful reviews on other sites. But any reviews on a company’s website should be taken very, very lightly. They have no provenance and are easily created. The Commerce Commission has prosecuted New Zealand companies for omitting negative reviews or editing reviews. Did Fair Go mention this? Nope.

One of the women interviewed said something of real value that was then ignored and not pursued. She said that it’s important to try and find reviews in “Google panels or some independent sites”. “Yes”, I thought, “now we are getting somewhere. They will talk about independent review sites and how those reviews can create peace-of-mind.” Nope. It was a segue into an interview with Saoud Khalifah, founder of Fakespot, in a park in New York. He warned that even Google reviews can be faked, as can others on sites like Amazon. He talked about review farms where companies can pay for either fake negative reviews to be posted about their competitors, or fake glowing ones can be posted about their own company. Again, Fair Go missed a trick. Why not ask, what reviews can you trust? What review sites can you trust? His only piece of advice? “Check if reviews are legit.”

I thought about this segment for a while. If the whole point of your show is to present New Zealanders with the best information, then why would you ignore local, expert advice? At NoCowboys we see everything relating to reviews. We have robust systems and checks to protect Kiwis and allow them to make the best choices with the best information. So why not talk to us about that? It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than flying a correspondent to New York. If you’re giving Kiwis a ‘fair go’ then give them access to the tools that allow them to achieve that.