Trustpilot, the global reviews community for online businesses, has begun carrying out industry-wide conversations to develop best practice guidelines to protect consumers from fake reviews.
The move, which started earlier this week, follows a recent report released by non-ministerial government department the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which highlighted an increasing trend of companies allegedly posting fabricated positive reviews onto online review websites.
The business has received support from other established online review platforms to create industry-wide guidelines and the initiative has been backed by Trading Standards, which has worked with Trustpilot on detecting fake reviews and identifying the issues related to it.
Trustpilot UK vice-president James Westlake said: “According to the CMA, more than half of UK adults not only use online reviews but find them valuable.
“We want to make sure that people can identify with, trust and be confident in reviews. At the moment our conversations with the leading people in the industry are fluid – as they develop so will a structure for the guidelines and so will an outcome.
“We're not aiming towards a specific point; we want to make sure that we've got people who also share our integrity in the review market and we want to make sure we can really bring together an understanding about what will make successful reviews as a marketplace and thus protect consumers.”
Trading Standards head of regulatory services Robert Sexton added: “As online reviews become more important to consumers, there is an increasing incentive to commit fraud, and we support this initiative to discuss and address the challenges the online review industry is facing.”
Trustpilot employs 35 people to work alongside its bespoke automated detection software to focus on reducing fraudulent behaviour and ensuring the trustworthiness of its platform.
The company has said it will invest ‘a significant amount’ of recently secured $73.5m (£47.8m) Series D funding to continuing to strengthen this protection strategy.
Westlake said: “The online review industry has expanded rapidly as consumers increasingly look to reviews to inform their shopping decisions.
“We are at a critical turning point, where the industry should come together and develop a framework to do everything we can to verify genuine online reviews.”
Harrier LLC commercial business development consultant Julian Marsh, who welcomes the proposals to create a new standard, said online reviews are becoming increasingly significant.
“More and more people are taking notice of online reviews, and they have become an important part of the decision-making and buying process for consumers. But I don’t know how you would police this, which may be part of the existing problem,” he said.
He added: “If you’ve got a business where there is a portal or some sort of mechanism for reporting back your experience, and the fear is that bad reviews adversely affect your business, then maybe it makes you think more carefully about what’s going to make a customer happy.”
Saxoprint senior key account manager Philip Foster added: “I support the move and think it is very important that we eradicate fake reviews, especially for the review sites themselves.
“To maintain their credibility and use as a decision-making tool, they need to ensure all of their reviews are genuine. I'm not sure how easy it will be to stop though, or how effectively it can be monitored.”
Trustpilot, which was founded in 2007, currently features more than 13 million consumer reviews of 115,000 businesses and the site produces a TrustScore for businesses based on recent reviews.