Consumer protectionEarly warning network identifies dubious practices in online reviews

Today, the Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv) presented current investigation results from the early warning network of consumer associations and the vzbv on user reviews on the Internet. According to the results, the reported web store operators, online retailers and portals used various practices to systematically influence user ratings.

The results are based on the content analysis of 141 early warning network cases from the consumer advisory service that consumers reported on online reviews in the first half of 2019

These are further details:

  • Consumer reports suggest that operators favor the creation of positive reviews online, while deleting and hindering negative reviews.
  • For example, it was reported that conspicuous stores or merchants lured consumers with vouchers to encourage top ratings, or that dubious rating brokers ensured the desired positive reviews.
  • It was also uncovered that some of the reported retailers pressured consumers to retract negative reviews on portals by threatening to claim damages by lawyer letters or otherwise.
  • Also, misleading reviews were reported by consumers. For example, an online retailer advertised products with allegedly top ratings, even though no customer reviews had been submitted at all.

Sabrina Wagner, member of the vzbv's Digital Market Monitoring Team, said: "This systematically manipulates consumers' purchasing decisions, because reviews are a key decision-making criterion for many people when shopping online. The resulting asymmetry between good and bad reviews can, in the worst case, lead to distortions of competition. Consumers lose out in this battle for top ratings. They are misled about the quality of a product or the trustworthiness of a merchant."

Source: vzbv

More information