Online Shoppers Buy 80 Million ‘Disappointing’ Items Based On Rave Reviews
Trading Standards Scotland urges consumers to beware of fake online reviews when Christmas shopping
UK shoppers have bought almost 80 million items* on the back of glowing online reviews – only to be bitterly disappointed when they arrive. New data**, released by National Trading Standards as the festive season gets underway, shows how our trust in online reviews is fuelling a surge in criminals using fake reviews to make a fast buck by selling poor quality goods and services.
For 56% of online shoppers, online reviews are a deciding factor when purchasing a product or service and 67% of those using online reviews are more likely to buy a product or service if it has a five-star rating – highlighting the faith many place in these reviews.
Fake online reviews are estimated to potentially influence £23 billion of UK consumer spending every year***. However, the research showed that many people are failing to take simple steps to avoid being duped. Just one in five check the timing and spacing of reviews online – if lots of similar reviews have been posted in a short space of time, they may have been submitted by the same person or group – whilst only 18% look at reviewers’ activity history, which can also provide clues that something is not right. A huge 87% of shoppers using online reviews do not use browser plug-ins such as Fakespot and ReviewMeta to detect bogus reviews.
Cameras, clothing, coffee machines – even cat toys; these are just some of the ‘rave reviewed’ products people regret buying. Trading Standards Scotland wants to help consumers understand how they can protect themselves when Christmas shopping online.
How to avoid falling for fake online reviews:
- Timing and spacing – check for multiple similar reviews that have been uploaded within a few minutes or hours.
- Reviewer’s history – check out the reviewer’s activity – if an account has been activated recently or has only reviewed a narrow range of products/services, this could indicate suspicious activity.
- Vague language – legitimate reviews will often be personal and specific to the individual’s experience of using the item, whilst a fake is more likely to be vague, using generic words and phrases such as ‘amazing’, ‘awesome’, ‘buy this product’.
- Can you contact them? – if a reviewer is happy to be contacted with questions, and is responsive, it’s a good sign they’re legitimate
- Use a browser plug-in – plug-ins use artificial intelligence to analyse reviews, identify suspicious activity and suggest better alternatives to consumers
- Look beyond the star rating – whilst a star rating of 4.5 or 5 can be a good indicator of quality, don’t go by this alone – look at the reviews too and check them against these tips.
Cllr Kelly Parry, Chair of Trading Standards Scotland’s Governance Board, said:
“Bogus online reviews damage legitimate businesses and bolster those seeking to make money through the selling of substandard goods. Many of the consumers surveyed said they felt deceived, conned and tricked after unwittingly making their purchase, often only realising the reviews were suspicious when it was too late. As we get closer to the festive period, we urge those doing their Christmas shopping online to look out for fake online reviews and avoid being left out of pocket by following our tips.”
If you suspect you have lost money after being caught out by a fake online review, you should report it to Advice Direct Scotland at www.consumeradvice.scot or by calling 0808 164 6000.
*52,890,000 UK adults [United Kingdom Population 2021 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs) (worldpopulationreview.com)] bought an average of 2.3 items each (based on online reviews, only to be disappointed) = 79,863,108 items.
**Opinium survey: Nationally representative sample of 2,003 UK adults who shop online, November 2021
*** Online reviews and endorsements – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) – paragraph 1.3