Millions of British shoppers are at risk of falling for fake reviews online, suggests a recent YouGov survey, commissioned by shopping advice site, Reevoo.com.

77 per cent of online shoppers use reviews and ratings* when purchasing, yet more than 40 per cent (41%) are unaware that some reviews online may be not completely genuine. The older generation (45-54 year olds) is most likely to fall victim to fake reviews as almost half (47%) were unaware of the existence of fake reviews online. Almost 1 in 10 respondents (9%) who purchased items based on reviews, felt misled and subsequently unhappy about their purchases.

Household names such as Belkin and DeLonghi have already been caught and chastised for posting fake reviews online. However, with a low level of consumer awareness and no means of ‘policing’ user-generated opinion, fake reviews are still a common occurrence. Sellers on Amazon Marketplace and eBay are notorious for publishing misleading or even fake reviews in a bid to improve their rating, said respondents.

The government has recently taken action in The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which states that it is now a legal offence to “falsely represent oneself as a consumer”. But although this law has been in place for more than a year, it has proved impossible to enforce and police across the Internet. The Office of Trading Standards is still heavily relying on consumers to report the instances of fake reviews.

According to the research, shoppers are taken in by highly promising reviews of beauty products including acne and anti-aging creams, laser-hair removal kits, hairloss-preventing shampoos, teeth whitening pastes and diet pills. They soon find out that customer reviews, even when provided by ‘real people’, exaggerated the benefits. One respondent said about his ‘fake review’ experience: “I bought shampoo to stop hairloss, what a fool.”

“Customer reviews are such a valuable tool for everyone in the shopping community, whether it’s shoppers, retailers or manufacturers. Fake reviews jeopardise this community for everyone. It is the responsibility of the retailers and manufacturers to provide accurate and true customer opinion. If this cannot be guaranteed, then they should not offer it at all,” said Richard Anson, CEO, Reevoo.

Fake reviews are not that easy to spot, but consumers can ask a few questions to help them determine whether they are dealing with an opinion provided by a real person.

• Does the review sound like a sales person has written it?
• Does it stand out? Are the rest of the reviews negative and yet this one is overly positive or vice versa?
• Is this a first review this person has written?
• Put the review into a search engine. Has it been duplicated on lots of review web sites?

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