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Reviews for sale: Why businesses buy fake feedback

It’s no secret that consumers are increasingly relying on reviews – whether we’re buying a gift for a friend, a new appliance for our home or pet insurance for a beloved pooch, we want to ensure our hard-earned money is well spent. In fact, our own research shows 66% of UK consumers read customer reviews to help them decide whether to make a purchase or not.

Unfortunately, reviews can’t always be trusted. As a recent BBC 5 live investigation shows, the fake feedback epidemic is as bad as ever. We take a look at why some businesses buy fake reviews and why it’s a bad idea.

Why do businesses buy fake feedback?

Illegal purchase

They’re not a real business

Unsurprisingly, fake businesses use fake reviews to trick consumers into believing they are a legitimate, trustworthy company. They may not even bother to go to the effort of buying false feedback, and instead just claim to collect reviews from a reputable company, when, in fact, they don’t. Fortunately, shoppers are getting savvier – almost a third will look at multiple sites to compare products – so they are less likely to get caught out.

They want to damage a competitor’s reputation

Unscrupulous businesses that want to get ahead of a competitor quick may choose to try and damage their reputation by hiring someone to leave fake negative reviews across their various profiles. This can be an extremely difficult problem to deal with, as it can be hard to prove to the likes of Facebook and Google that the reviews are false.

They believe cutting corners is the answer

Starting a new business and building up that positive reputation that will help get people through the door isn’t easy, but cutting corners isn’t the answer. Firstly, it’s important to closely monitor how your business performs in its first few weeks, based on genuine customer feedback. Secondly, customers will know if you’ve attempted ignore or ‘bury’ negative reviews. They’ll complain on social media, tell their friends, and will never use your business again.

Don’t do it!

There are many reasons why a business may feel the need to purchase fake feedback, but ultimately, it’s not worth the risk. If you’re found out to be using such services, you’re probably breaching the terms of service of the website you are using to host the reviews, and you could be breaking the law. According to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), “businesses that mislead consumers may be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008”.

You also don’t gain any insight to your customers when you use fake feedback to artificially boost your ratings. Reviews aren’t just a trust signal for consumers, they allow you to learn more about who your customers are, what your business does well, and what areas need improvement.

Faking it just isn’t worth it.