Arguments over the alleged gaming of reviews by and for some estate agencies have waged ferociously in recent years, and now comedian Joe Lycett has shown exactly how easy it is to do.
Lycett - whose Channel 4 consumer rights show has previously featured a lettings agency involved in a deposits row - takes an in depth look at how Trustpilot’s reviews can be gamed.
Although the comedian does not name any property company, he does illustrate the ease of rigging reviews by creating a fictitious water purifying product - actually a colander - and incentivising people to give it five star reviews on Trustpilot.
This is despite the fact that most of the reviewers believed the ‘water purifier’ was a con.
Lycett’s highly entertaining 15 minute look at Trustpilot includes various references that will be familiar to critics of review services. For example, when one reviewer says he will give the colander only three stars, Lycett says he’ll complain and get it deleted; when other individuals appear reluctant to make a review at all, he offers them sweets as an incentive.
More seriously, he makes the point: “How can [Trustpilot] let a company with an entirely fake product that’s not sold a simple unit, get 160 entirely bogus reviews taking it to the top of multiple categories?”
You can see Lyceum’s full piece at the bottom of this story; as with all of his comedy, it’s laced with occasional bad language and innuendo.
Trustpilot, in a lengthy statement posted on its website, explains its processes to identify fake products and reviews, and tries to dismiss the Channel 4 piece as a “prank” but goes on to say “over the next weeks and months, we’re investing millions more in technology, people and processes to keep improving our platform and enforcement.”
In addition it admits that “historically some companies have chosen to offer consumers an incentive to leave a review. This is allowed under our guidelines as long as every incentive is neutrally worded, steering equally towards both positive and negative feedback. The simple logic is that neutral incentives lead to more reviews and that creates a fuller picture for other consumers.”
Here’s is Trustpilot’s statement.