One in three SMEs victims of fake competitor reviews

New research reveals a third of Australian SMEs claim to have received online reviews that breach guidelines set out by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Aussies value the authenticity of online reviews and the majority (69 per cent) believe businesses should not be able to post about their competitors on online review sites.

However, the study shows business owners claim to have had an untrue report posted on their company’s listing (38 per cent), as well as unfavourable reviews written by a competitor (33 per cent) – both strictly prohibited under the ACCC’s Competition and Consumer Act 2010.

True Local, which commissioned the research, is urging SME owners to proactively check the latest guidelines for managing and leaving reviews.

True Local CEO, David Scribner, said, “Online review management is important to maintain a business’ reputation and a key way to drive customer growth. Authenticity is key to building this trust, so it’s disappointing to see there are still some engaging in misleading conduct, such as posting reviews about competitors or encouraging fake reviews. Not only does this break consumer watchdog rules, it undoes a lot of hard work and can make your own business seem untrustworthy.

“In 2015, True Local introduced anti-fraud technology involving up to 100 checks to filter out fake posts and ensure consumers feel confident they are reading genuine reviews. It’s clear from the research fake reviews are still a serious concern for small businesses, which is why we are continuously investing in these cutting-edge technologies.”

Across the states, Tasmanian businesses claim to have had the most competitors leave a review on their listing (20 per cent) – around twice as many as in Queensland (10 per cent) and NSW (11 per cent). Victoria was close behind at 18 per cent.

Businesses in NSW were almost twice as likely (15 per cent) as those in South Australia (8 per cent) to receive an untrue report posted on their companies listing. They were also twice as likely to report a review they deemed misleading (16 per cent), compared to businesses in Queensland (eight per cent).

Small-business owners and managers should know what is considered a misleading review, including:

  • family and friends not being transparent about the personal connection in their review
  • reviews that do not reflect a genuinely held opinion
  • soliciting others to write reviews on a competitor website.

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