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, but sadly the service has definitely gone downhill since they have grown in size and their standards have declined and any good intentions left by the wayside in favour of profit.
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 biased practices from their compliance team which has defied common sense. When they have blocked negative reviews at the request of the recipient, they 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 make any effort to check facts, even if it is something as simple as clicking a link and looking at a web page to verify a 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 their 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, 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 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.
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 in other words, you should not rely solely on this as your only source of information.
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.