The proliferation of the Internet has made it easier for consumers to conduct their own research and inquire with other consumers. In the same token, it has made it easier for anyone and everyone to become publishers in their own right. However, the anonymity of the online space also opens this up to deception and fakers who write embellished reviews beyond what they can show factually. In the legal sense, this is often referred to as defamation.
As the Internet industry matures, so do the legalities surrounding many variables that can happen in the online space – in most cases, the law simply extends itself to online. Therefore, it is extremely important for people who post online reviews to leave out hyperboles and exaggerations – and only focus on the facts of the matter.
This article is a high-level overview of important facts for both consumers looking for reviews online and consumers posting reviews online.
First and foremost, consumers researching online needs to understand the difference between ‘opinions’ and ‘reviews’, in order to find the right information that will help them make a decision on a supplier.
For example ‘opinions of ReachLocal’ that are available online are often embellished statements, with heated notes lacking supporting facts. These opinions of ReachLocal are often questionable, with the perpetrators in most cases other online marketing companies who are posing as ‘customers’ in effort to defame their competition and hope that the consumer calls them instead.
Whereas ‘reviews of ReachLocal‘ are more matter-of-fact, with clear, simple statements that informs the reader of the service and product available. A good review summarises progress made and the current state. The author also makes every attempt to be even-handed in their treatment of the subject. And most importantly, good reviews are from real customers.
3 Things Consumers Looking For Reviews Online Should Be Aware of:
- Be wary of fake reviews. On average, 10-15% of all reviews are fake or paid-for, according to Gartner Technology.
- 95% of unhappy customers will return to a supplier they may have written a bad review about, if their issue is resolved quickly and efficiently. So consider the currency of the review and the response of the supplier.
- Customers who have had a bad experience with a business will tell an average of 23 people about it, compared to telling 10 people if it’s a good experience. In other words, it is worth noting that you may see more negative reviews online for a specific supplier because unhappy customers are generally louder than happy customers.
Similarly, consumers posting online reviews need to understand the basics about writing reviews and the law. Below are some basic facts about posting online reviews:
- In the eyes of the law, everyone is considered a publisher. And are liable for defamation. Check out this informative article on TechLife and FindLaw.
- In a nutshell, the causes for defamation contain 3 main elements:
- You published the article to a third party
- You defame by stating that someone is corrupt, dishonest or disloyal. Or state that someone is committing an illegal act.
- You ridicule an individual either by words of imagery.
- 70% of Australian consumers trust consumer reviews online, so make sure you take your responsibility seriously and post unbiased, factual reviews.
As more and more information become available online, it becomes even more important to understand your role as a consumer.