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 evidence and the services they are selling, it is clear just how manipulative and untrustworthy they are.
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, it is by invite only. The rest are shady and untrustworthy business directory websites like yelp.com.
So when I originally discovered trustpilot.com a few years ago it seemed like there was finally a useful and transparent review site, I was wrong.
Trustpilot may well 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 one thing 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 some self proclaimed checks in place to stop business owners posting fake reviews on their own company, or multiple reviews from the same IP address, that seems to be about the limit of their efforts.
Trustpilot’s service has degraded so much that they are themselves now being reviewed on other review sites for their untrustworthiness.
- Only 7% of reviewers recommend Trustpilot on Reviews.io
- Trustpilot – not to be trusted so much
- Can you trust Trustpilot? – 9 million reviews studied
The compliance team pushes the boundaries of incompetence and dealing with their lies and excuses severely tests your fortitude.
The general consensus is that Trustpilot work in favour of clients on their paid plans, and will remove the majority of negative reviews, falsely inflating their positive ratings.
From my own dealings with them over the years, I can confirm that I have experienced what I would consider extremely unethical and biased behaviour from their so-called compliance team which has defied common sense and confirms the above consensus.
They have on multiple occasions removed legitimate negative reviews at the request of the client 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.
Once you have removed everything they have requested, they will then refuse to reinstate the review on the basis that it does not say anything about the service you received from said company.
If you have mentioned the name of the company or the CEO/owner of the company in your review, they will even use this as an excuse not to publish and will demand that this information is removed, even though this information is not personal or private and is publicly available online.
There is of course no logical reason to not mention the name of the company that you are reviewing, since that information is obviously displayed right at the top of the page, since this information is required for the Trustpilot site to even work. Of course if you point that fact out to the compliance team, they will simply ignore it.
The compliance team also completely refuse to check facts or look at 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 or look at an image.
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 the situation is reversed, and it seems as though they will happily allow defamatory or fake reviews to be posted unabated, and will put in minimal effort to deal with complaints and will make it as difficult as possible. I have had to resort to threats of legal action to get fraudulent/fake reviews removed.
in fact, if you read the feedback on the sites above, business owners are claiming they are being blocked by TrustPilot from even reporting defamatory or fake reviews.
The only way to not find yourself being abused on Trustpilot is by using their paid service, after which you receive the preferential treatment and allow you to abuse the system instead.
As if this was not bad enough, Trustpilot will also happily allow malicious and defamatory posts against you personally, which I can also attest to from personal experience.
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 get revenge on your for posting a negative review by posting whatever malicious and defamatory lies they like about you and Trustpilot will not do anything about it (unless you threaten them with legal action).
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.