2 September, 2014

How some (bad) businesses angle for good reviews

Consumer reviews are important for your local business, but you can take it too far. This 4 min vid shows how some companies have taken reviews too seriously, and gone foul.
Warning: 30 second ad first.

So that’s the US, what about Australia?

In Australia sadly I see businesses getting fake reviews every day, so someone’s making a mint out of it. I’d love to know the stories they tell business owners, because I really hope no-one is unethical enough to knowingly be happy to buy fake reviews (I know, I know, dream on…). Sadly I have seen too many business owners requesting reviews from communities known for selling fake reviews, as well as offering review exchanges. Sadly, fake reviews are rife from consumers AND business owners.  This is a global problem.

Regardless of the advertising medium, any review or testimonial should reflect the genuine views and opinions of the person that is represented to have made it. Businesses must not misrepresent consumer opinions to dishonestly promote themselves. A fake review or testimonial is one which does not reflect the genuinely held opinion of the author. Using false or misleading reviews or testimonials in any advertising medium will risk contravening the ACL.

Businesses may be engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct if they:

  • use fake reviews, including as a form of false advertising or to damage the reputation of a competitor
  • use tactics to influence a consumer to provide a positive review or refrain from a negative review
  • selectively remove or edit reviews, particularly negative reviews, for commercial or promotional reasons.

There’s a directory agency based in Sydney selling a service of getting real reviews. Their offering is they take away the hassle of getting good reviews and manage the process on your behalf. Sounds great until you read the fine print – they incentivise every single review by telling customers they go into a draw to win a prize.

Google, Yelp and many of the other review sites clearly state in their terms you’re not to incentivise. And most countries have legislation that states similar, either explicitly or in vague enough wording they can make the law apply if they want to.

Conflict of interest
Maps user contributed content is most valuable when it is honest and unbiased. Examples of disallowed practices include, but are not limited to:

  • Reviewing your own business.
  • Posting content about a current or former employment experience.
  • Posting content about a competitor to manipulate their ratings.

Prohibited and Restricted Content

Don’t ask customers for reviews: Don’t ask your customers to review your business on Yelp.

But here’s the thing – at some point it’s going to bite you.

When the ACCC or other governing bodies such as the ADA get involved, the agency that posted the fake reviews will go to ground, and the business owner will be in serious financial trouble. In the case of two companies, 145,000 worth of trouble, plus legal fees.

And it’s more than just the overseers – what happens when someone’s experience totally contradicts the glowing reviews? What happens when you get called out? Even more damage to your reputation…

So what should you do? How do you get good reviews?


Too simple, isn’t it? Just so simple you want to overlook it.


If you want, you can let people know through simple, tasteful signage at the register, your front door, your website, or on the tables that you’re open to receiving reviews.

Then, if you really want to be good at this… respond to the reviews – all of them. Good and bad.