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#NoReceiptNoReview Reignites the War on Fake Online Recommendations

The Drum
In light of last week's news that Amazon are fighting back at fake reviewers, a campaign on Twitter dubbed '#noreceiptnoreview' is gaining popularity. The campaign hopes that review-dependant companies such as 'the world's largest travel website' TripAdvisor will launch a policy that requires proof of purchase in order for 'customers' to leave reviews, hopefully filtering out the illegitimate posts.

We covered the news last week that Amazon planned to sue 1,000 fake reviewers on websites like Fiverr for damaging their brand with "false, misleading and inauthentic" content. It goes without saying that posts on these sites have enormous power over our spending habits and where we choose to eat, visit and holiday. PR and marketing agency Cone found that  85% of people (an 8% increase on the previous year) said they were more likely to purchase products or services when they could find additional recommendations about them online. Businesses also rely heavily on the feedback of customers in order to publicise their enterprise - an exceptional review has the potential to affect areas of business, such as customer service, directly. Having worked in the hospitality industry for several years, this is first-hand knowledge.

The hashtag seems to have originated from the user @EaterWriter, who wrote an open letter to TripAdvisor specifically asking for them to implement the system in order to validate content on their site. The tweet also implored fellow users to share any posts they suspect of being fraudulent.

Twitter users have been coming out in droves to support the idea:

But what is the real-life effect of fake posts on these sites? Whilst bogus content might outwardly seem to benefit a company, it can also have some undesirable knock-on effects:-

  • Loss of trust and brand loyalty. If your business is being aided by forged reviews, intentionally or not, customers will soon pick up on it. Even if it wasn't your doing, this could lead to consumers believing that other areas of your operation aren't legit. Perhaps surprisingly, bad reviews tend to come from devoted customers who have made several purchases in their history, and the most deceptive are those that promote, not slander, a business.
  • Legal issues. In the US in 2009 the Federal Trade Commission decided that paying for positive reviews without revealing the reviewer was sponsored is a form of misleading advertising. If caught, you could be in hot water with the law and fined a hefty sum.
  • Censorship. If you are too pushy on your customers to leave feedback for your business, you may be blacklisted from sites such as Google+ Local and Yelp. Google+ Local reviews have been disappearing in a drive to ensure that all posts are "authentic, relevant and useful". 

So what do TripAdvisor have to say? A spokesperson said the company is not in favour of the receipt idea. “We believe that every experience counts, not just that of the person who paid the bill. If four friends go out to dinner there will be four different opinions, but only the one person with the receipt would be able to leave a review." She added that the company has “sophisticated systems and techniques and teams in place to detect fraudsters” - but it seems these may not be enough at present.

SMF rookie, fresh out of academia, looking forward to more creative ventures. With a love of current affairs, green tea and an ever insatiable wanderlust, Katie is ready to have her voice heard. Follow her @KatieAtSMF

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#NoReceiptNoReview Reignites the War on Fake Online Recommendations Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, October 28, 2015 Rating: 5

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