It is well known that we, the consumers, trust recommendations coming from peers or fellow consumers much more than we trust what businesses are telling us about them. Therefore the businesses selling social proof are very powerful and they can easily manipulate our thoughts on any brand.
Yelp even won a court settlement recently, giving them permission to legally manipulate ratings. Both Yelp and Trustpilot claim that they don’t manipulate the truth, but when you take a closer look at the services they are selling, you get a completely different picture.
There are quite a few sites online that allow you to write reviews on any company, but the majority of worthwhile ones are paid services geared towards businesses collecting product reviews on their e-commerce websites, so members of the public cannot just go and write a review about the company, the rest are business directory websites like yelp.com. So when I discovered trustpilot.com a few years ago it seemed like there was finally a useful and transparent review site.
Trustpilot may have started well back in 2012 when it was run by just a couple of guys, maybe they even had honourable intentions to keep the site honest, we will never know. But once thins is for sure, even if that was was the case then their standards have declined and any good intentions left by the wayside in favour of profit.
While they do have checks in place to stop business owners reviewing their own company, or multiple reviews from the same IP address, that is nothing else in place to stop fake reviews.
Trustpilot’s service has degraded so much that they are themselves now being reviewed on other review sites for their untrustworthiness.
The compliance team pushes the boundaries of incompetence and dealing with them severely tests your fortitude.
From my own dealings with them over the years, I can confirm that I have experienced what I would consider unethical and biased practices from their so-called compliance team which has defied common sense.
They have on multiple occasions blocked negative reviews at the request of the recipient and have then refused to reinstate them unless I have removed literally every negative word from the review, or have requested outlandish and usually unattainable evidence.
They show complete unwillingness to check facts or evidence when provided, even if it is something as simple as clicking a link and looking at a web page to verify companies trading names.
Most consumers will simply get so frustrated with these vexatious and convoluted tactics, they will give up, which is clearly the intent as this puts Trustpilot in the position that they can blame the consumer for not following through.
If a company is using Trustpilot’s free service then it seems as though they will happily allow defamatory or fake reviews to be posted unabated, and will gladly ignore any requests to get them removed or make it as difficult as possible.
in fact, if you read the feedback on the sites above, business owners are claiming they are being blocked by TrustPilot from reporting defamatory or fake reviews.
The only way around this seems to be by using their paid service, after which you receive the opposite treatment and they will go out of their way to remove negative reviews without question and will even refuse evidence from the customer proving the reviews are legit and will not make any effort at all to verify details you send them.
As if this was not bad enough, Trustpilot will also happily allow malicious and defamatory posts against you personally.
According to Trustpilot’s own guidelines, “1.1 You can write a review on Trustpilot about a company if you have had a buying or service experience with that company,”
But it seems they do not follow these guidelines, and if you have a personal web page or a blog, then a vindictive business owner can post whatever malicious and defamatory lies they like about you and Trustpilot will not care.
So what does this mean to the consumer?
Unfortunately, since Trustpilot allow reviews to be manipulated, this means that the scores and ratings you see for any company may not be reliable, so if in doubt, you should not rely solely on this as your only source.
They do have processes in place to stop the same person leaving multiple reviews under different names, and knowing how to get around this will be beyond the ability of the average person who is not very computer literate. So this does mean that fake positive reviews are less likely.
One solution to verify a company that seems too good to be true is to check other directory sites such as yell.com, yelp.com, freeindex.com etc which they may not be monitoring. Also social media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Companies who are in the habit of removing negative reviews will usually not allow posts on their Facebook page without moderation, or will quickly remove anything negative, so this is easy enough to test. No company can remove other people’s tweets though, so check their timeline and do a search for specific phrases.
If you post reviews on Trustpilot, then I would also suggest doing so anonymously to avoid vindictive retribution from malicious business owners.