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More than 50% of Australians believe they’ve fallen for fake reviews
Here’s how to spot them.
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Aussies are pretty prolific online shoppers. According to Australia Post, four in five households made at least one online purchase at some point in 2020, totalling more than $50 billion. And that’s not even including the millions of dollars we all spent ordering online takeaway during lockdown.
So, with so much of our hard-earned cash going towards online purchases, we naturally want to ensure we’re making the right choices. For many of us, that means doing our due diligence and reading user reviews before we click “Add to cart”. But given how easy it is for businesses to buy (illegitimate) positive reviews, how can we know which ones to trust and which to ignore?
What we found
Our survey found that 96% of Australians read reviews sometimes or always before purchasing online, and 86% said they read reviews before visiting a restaurant or business.
So, how seriously do we take these reviews? Well, 15% of respondents said they wouldn’t purchase something or even visit a business if its average rating was lower than five stars. On the other hand, 28% don’t trust online reviews at all.
As for why so many people have trust issues with online reviews, 52% of Aussies believe they’ve fallen for fake ones, and 26% of respondents were unable to tell the difference between a fake and a real review.
How to identify a fake review
Speaking to Reviews.org, a spokesperson for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) urges all shoppers to be aware that “not all posted reviews are legitimate”.
“There are various ways in which online reviews can be manipulated,” they explained. “For example, a business may post fake positive reviews about their own goods or services, or offer incentives to consumers to post positive reviews or remove negative reviews. Businesses may also post fake negative reviews about their competitors to gain an advantage in the market.”
So, what should consumers be on the lookout for when shopping online? Here are a few tips:
- Don’t rely on one website when researching something you’re looking to buy. Before purchasing, consult multiple trustworthy and independent sources, like third-party reviews platforms and expert reviewers (like us!). Unlike the reviews you find on the business or product’s own website, third-party reviewers tend to employ stricter quality assurance policies.
- Be wary of testimonials. Whether it’s a fancy new smart home gadget or a local plumbing business, the ACCC warns that positive reviews and testimonials published on a company’s own website may be less credible, as they are often incentivised by the business (e.g. 10% your next order in exchange for a five-star review).
- Look for patterns. There are a few telltale signs when it comes to spotting an illegitimate review. Were all (or a lot of) the reviews posted on the same date? Are they written in the same tone, using the same vocabulary? Has the author left reviews for other products and businesses, or just this one?
- Don’t fall for overwhelmingly positive reviews. Retailers (as opposed to third-party review sites) may have more control over what customer reviews are published and which are removed. If something has thousands of reviews and very few (if any) under three stars, it’s possible the company has deleted credible negative reviews to artificially inflate their rating.
“If consumers are concerned about fake or illegitimate reviews appearing on third-party review platforms, they should first report this to the third-party review platform provider,” the ACCC spokesperson advises. “Consumers can also report their concerns about fake or misleading online reviews to the ACCC.”
We surveyed 1,000 Australians about online shopping reviews and fake reviews, then analysed the results for this report.