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19 September, 2013

Customer reviews under review

greedAs local businesses become more aware of how important reviews are for the future of their business, sites like Yelp, Google, TrueLocal and womo become a key part of their marketing mix.

For all the good those sites do, there’s always someone who tries to game a system. And sadly, that happens on both sides of the fence – the ones who make the system and those who use it.

Yelp is a global giant in the online-reviews space. In the past, they’ve been accused of really bad behaviour in the USA. Here in Australia we should fare a little better because Yelp has partnered with Sensis. I haven’t heard of any nastiness here in down under.

On the other side of the coin, a few weeks ago Yelp sued a bankruptcy lawyer for posting fake reviews (called astroturfing).  And another review site, Edmonds.com successfully sued an online reputation marketing firm in Texas for the same thing, posting fake reviews on 15 review sites, including its own.

It’s no surprise to learn lawsuits (in the US anyway) fly left right and centre. When the greed gland gets involved, the only ones that really win are the lawyers.

The point that irks me is the real losers here are not the plaintiffs or the defendants. It’s everyday people – people just like you, just like me.

In Australia, the ACCC is targeting businesses who are astroturfing

“The ACCC has made online competition and consumer issues a compliance and enforcement priority… Consumer protection matters on our radar include fake online reviews, group buying websites, price comparison websites, unfair contract terms online, product safety online, and consumer guarantee rights.” Charmian, Rod Sims

Personally, I’m looking forward to the ACCC prosecuting someone. I hope their statement isn’t just sabre-rattling. I’m seeing obviously fake reviews being shown out there on Australian businesses, and chances are you are too. Whether it’s the business owner or a competitor or ex-employee, this silliness needs to stop.

Real businesses, real livelihoods, real families are being impacted.

As my son would say, “not cool”