With the growth of online shopping, customers have developed a reliance on comments and reviews placed either on the website of the provider of products or services, or on websites that have been created solely for the purpose of providing objective reviews with no relationship to the merchant being examined.
Reviews and testimonials have grown in terms of their influence on purchasing decisions, which has had the unfortunate result of causing some less than scrupulous practices.
This problem has attracted the attention of the ACCC which checks to ensure that reviews are truly written by actual customers.
In once recent instance, the agency actually proceeded to the extent of lodging a formal complaint in Federal Court against the franchise operation Electrodry Carpet Cleaning, a company that specialises in cleaning and maintenance services of carpet, drapes, grout, upholstery and mattresses.
According to the ACCC’s complaint, “The (Electrodry) testimonials were written and posted by people associated with, or contracted to Electrodry and not by its genuine clients as the testimonials implied.”
Lamentably, this is in all probability the tip of the iceberg. It is generally pretty obvious when a review paints such a rosy picture that it could not possibly be completely true, just as it is hard to imagine that a company could stay in business when negative reviews are far out of proportion to reality.
It is nice when an agency with some expertise, and perhaps the resources to gather actual evidence, such as that acquired in the case of Electrodry, steps in to act in the interest of potential customers. It would also appear that the prospect of putting a complete halt to the practice of posting phony reviews and testimonials is far-fetched.
The unfortunate end result of the actions of a few bad actors is that a valuable consumer resource is tarnished and unreliable.