We’ve written before about the importance of knowing which online reviews have more voracity than others and treating reviews on a business’ own website with a good degree of suspicion. Again a New Zealand company is in the news for allegedly creating a false sense of its reputation by posting false reviews and deleting negative ones. It is worth pointing out that these behaviours are not the norm but it does pay to look for a few things when reading the feedback pages on a business’ website.
As reported in the Herald this month, “The TV Shop is facing court for allegedly misleading shoppers, including using its own staff to secretly post positive online reviews and removing negative ones. The Commerce Commission announced today it has filed 13 representative charges against The TV Shop, owned by Auckland-based company Brand Developers Limited.” (Source: “The TV Shop charged with misleading shoppers, allegedly posting fake online reviews,” by Natalie Akoorie, New Zealand Herald, march 1, 2023).
The article goes on to say: “The Commission alleges The TV Shop breached the Fair Trading Act by:
- Misleading consumers about the popularity of goods when staff members posted reviews on various online review platforms about products without disclosing their affiliation to the business and removed some low-rating reviews on its own website
- Misleading consumers about remedies available to them if something went wrong with their products by implying to consumers they did not have any other rights to refunds outside of its own “30-day Money Back Guarantee scheme” or “risk-free trial” when consumers wanted to return products they believed were faulty or wrongly advertised. However, consumers may have had rights available to them under the Consumer Guarantees Act
- Misleading consumers about the nature of products sold when it advertised promotions for its Air Roaster Pro, offering an accessory pack as “free” or a “bonus” and on a “special offer” when the Air Roaster Pro was never for sale without the accessory pack, and the product was sold as a “special offer” continuously between 2018 and 2021.” (Source: “The TV Shop charged with misleading shoppers, allegedly posting fake online reviews,” by Natalie Akoorie, New Zealand Herald, march 1, 2023).
As consumers we all know that reviews are a vital part of the purchasing or hiring decision making process. We rely on them to alleviate any doubts we may have and to be assured and we use them as a measure of comparison between a number of products and/or businesses. Knowing they are real and not manipulated is essential – otherwise we end up falling prey to a business that utilises mistruths and fraud as a part of its overall operation.
One way to do that is to look at the reviews on a business’ site and do a bit of due diligence. Red flags are only great reviews with oftentimes repetitive phrases in them and no questionable ones or bad reviews. Stock images of people used to accompany them is another sign that all is not as it should be. When you think about it there is no provenance to these reviews – it’s difficult to ascertain who posted them and they could so easily just be concocted by the business itself. In all honesty I would be looking for links to other review sites on review pages but more than that I would Google the business’ name with reviews as the search parameter and using what I found to formulate my decision.
Spending a few minutes to set your mind at ease makes sense. You don’t want to be taken in by fake reviews and you needn’t be. Again – it is a small number of businesses that do this – the majority present reviews on their sites in an honest and transparent way. Still, search for other reviews for the business online. You won’t regret it.