The Competition and Markets Authority today published a report on online reviews and endorsements. Here’s the CMA’s Senior Director, Nisha Arora, reflecting on the debate their report has already started to generate.
The most important message from our report is that reviews and endorsements are really valuable to consumers.
That said, there’s work to be done if we want to preserve consumers’ trust. We’ve received information about fake reviews, genuine negative reviews not being published and a lack of clear disclosure of paid endorsements in blogs, vlogs and other online publications.
That’s why we’ve opened an investigation into a number of companies in connection with potential non-disclosure of paid endorsements. And we’re looking into other concerns that have been raised to determine whether we should be taking further action.
Reaction to our report
When I did the rounds on TV and radio this morning the same important questions came up repeatedly:
- Can we believe what we’re reading in reviews and endorsements? Given the concerns we’ve identified, I can’t vouch for every review, blog and tweet. Nevertheless, the outcomes for users speak for themselves. Eight out of 10 people who use online reviews and blogs find that the thing they buy matches their expectations.
- What can be done to address your concerns? While the CMA will play an active role, the main responsibility lies with businesses in the sector. It’s critical for them to maintain your trust and ensure that you continue to get good outcomes when they use these tools. We’ve tried to help by producing information for businesses explaining what they need to do to comply with the law.
- What do you suggest people should do? There’s no sure fire way for you to tell if a review is real or fake – or indeed to be certain that the site that they are looking at is publishing all reviews. However, our research on the way that people use reviews and endorsements suggests that some of you are already pretty savvy about using online reviews and endorsements. For instance, testing what they read with other information sources including reviews, blogs and friends and family.
Online reviews can provide valuable information and it’s important that your trust in them is maintained. That’s why we’re continuing our work in these sectors.
What’s your experience of online reviews? Have you been suspicious of a review that’s been published? Have you ever had problems posting your own user reviews?
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Nisha Arora, Senior Director Consumer at the Competition and Markets Authority. All opinions expressed here are her own, not necessarily those of Which?.