Can you trust online reviews?

July 1, 2016

Many people look to online reviews when deciding whether to buy something, especially when it comes to something you haven’t bought before – such as a new product – or somewhere you haven’t booked before – such as a hotel. Positive reviews may well influence your decision.

Blogs, websites and social media are all good sources for reviews. However, you may not always be getting the full story. Could the blogger have been paid to write a review about how fantastic that new product is? Or could the hotel have posted that glowing review about themselves? Or on the other hand, could those terrible reviews have possibly been posted by a competitor?

While it is not against the law for someone to receive free goods to try out, or to be paid to write or say something good about a product or service, it is against the law for a business to mislead consumers. Businesses should be honest and fair when it comes to reviews; they should not hide any negative reviews, and they should never post fake reviews. Bloggers, vloggers and digital influencers should be upfront and make it clear when they have been paid to promote a product, place or service.

Before you buy something based on a review, it pays to be a little sceptical. Think about where the information has come from; is it an impartial organisation, one consumer, a number of consumers or a blogger? Do a little digging online by going to a search engine and typing the name of the product, service or company name, along with ‘review’, ‘complaint’ or ‘scam’, if it’s a company you’re not familiar with. Look for credible opinions from trusted sources and don’t just rely on one, compare reviews from a number of websites.

If you feel you have been misled by a blog or online review, get in touch with us by calling our consumer helpline on 1890 432 432 or contact us using this form.

A set of guidelines for anyone involved in posting or publishing reviews has been released by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), of which the CCPC is a member. Click here for more information.

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