There's some bad news for anyone who relies on web reviews to do…well, almost anything in France, a new survey has revealed.
With a third of the country's online reviews revealed as fake, according to a new survey by the DGCCRF – in charge of clamping down on fraud in consumer products – web users will be forgiven for asking whether there's a point to reading them at all.
Looking at web use during 2016, the report showed that these fake reviews affect industries as diverse as restaurants, hotels, household electrical goods and clothing.
And the bad news for tourists is that the hotel industry is among the sectors particularly affected by the scourge of fraudulent reviews, according to the data gathered by the consumer watchdog since 2010.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the fake comments are coming from businesses and professionals giving themselves positive reviews, and their competitors negative ones.
Another common trick is people using moderation tools to delete negative comments, or make them hard to find, with internet users tending to focus on the most visible reviews.
With businesses and professionals flouting the quality standards of online comments, which say that reviews will not be tampered with, while pretending to adhere to them French consumers are left none the wiser.
And the statistics relating to fake comments online are all the more worrying when coupled with another of the consumer watchdog's surveys, conducted in 2014, which shows that 74 percent of internet users have decided against buying a product due to negative online reviews.
On top of this, the 2014 survey showed that 41 percent of users made an impulse buy after reading positive comments.
Now we know that in both these cases, there's a one in three chance that the reviews people were reacting to were fake.
To combat the fraudulent practice, from January 1st 2018 the DGCCRF is tightening rules saying that “everyone involved in collecting, moderating and putting out online consumer reviews must guarantee that the information is honest, clear and transparent in terms of the way it has been published and its treatment.”
But this isn't the first time the French have tried to crackdown on fake comments.
In 2013, The Local reported on the attempts of France’s national association on standardization and certification, AFNOR, to put a stop to fake commenters.
Their system included businesses displaying a logo on their websites, as well as consumer forums like La Fourchette, Yelp, and lastminute.com, ensuring users that the sites have checked comments for authenticity, and that the comments haven’t been edited to their advantage.