Finally! Some action against fake online reviews!
I have long suspected the veracity of online reviews. Only the other day we had a terrible experience with a cleaning service that was rated as 5-star on Yelp. They were unreliable, pushy, and downright rude. Indeed, what was interesting was that Yelp did not publish the review I wrote giving the business a 1-star.
As such, I was most heartened to read in today’s (September 24, 2013) Herald Tribune that, at least in the US, and in New York State in particular, a crackdown is in progress on fake reviews, with entities that have arranged to have fake reviews posted through demanding it of employees or worse still paying for them directly or through PR firms, as well as the PR firms that have helped in procuring such fake reviews, being taken to task. Hopefully, there will be a ripple effect through the other states and perhaps other countries too, to eliminate this heinous practice.
The practice is heinous on many counts. First, it is simply unethical. People believe that reviews are objective as they are written by people who have an arms-length relationship with whatever it is that is being reviewed. Thus, reviews have a much bigger influence than what consumers perceive to be company paid for messages. Second, such reviews can have consequences for consumers that go well beyond just a sub-optimal choice. It can expose consumers to potential harm, and deadly harm at that, in categories where poor products or poor service performance can have a profound effect, e.g., in the medical field. Third, a competitor using this underhand practice can quickly and cheaply acquire a reputation that may have taken the incumbent years and many millions to build up, unfairly negating their competitive advantage. Fourth, fake reviews totally undermine the principles of competition. Indeed, the whole point of reviews was to facilitate the transmission of competitive information to consumers, which is the bedrock assumption of free market economics. Fake reviews eat away at this fundamental assumption, distorting the whole notion of a free market.
I am delighted to see that New York State has taken a lead on this. I sincerely hope that other states and countries follow suit!