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Visitors to France be aware…don’t believe the (online) hype

Tourists have naturally come to rely on the internet to help them plan their perfect trip abroad. But a report this week revealed the reason why visitors might be wiser to dust off their trusty guidebooks.

Visitors to France be aware...don't believe the (online) hype
Photo: Tripadvisor
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. 
 
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Photo: Depositphotos

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. 
 
 
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. 

TECHNOLOGY

French watchdog fines Google and Amazon subsidiary €135m for unauthorised cookies

France's CNIL data privacy watchdog said on Thursday it had fined two Google units a total of €100 million and an Amazon subsidiary €35 million over advertising cookies.

French watchdog fines Google and Amazon subsidiary €135m for unauthorised cookies
Photo: AFP

The regulator said the fines were “for having placed advertising cookies on the computers of users … without obtaining prior consent and without providing adequate information.”

A cookie is a small piece of data stored on a user's computer browser that allows websites to identify users and remember their previous activity.

The CNIL said when a user visited the website google.fr, several cookies used for advertising purposes were automatically placed on his or her computer, without any action required on the user's part.

It said a similar thing happened when visiting one page on the amazon.fr website.

CNIL said this type of cookie “can only be placed after the user has expressed his or her consent” and thus violated regulations on receiving prior consent.

It faulted Google for providing insufficient privacy information for users as it did not let them know about the cookies which had been placed and that the procedure to block them still left one operational.

CNIL also said Amazon had not provided clear or complete information about the cookies it placed on computers of users until a redesign in September 2020.

Google also stopped placing cookies on the computers of users without consent in September, CNIL said, but added it still does not provide a sufficient explanation for their use.

The regulator said “no matter what path the users used to visit the website, they were either insufficiently informed or never informed of the fact that cookies were placed on their computer.”

The €35 million fine is on the Amazon Europe Core subsidiary.

CNIL imposed fines of €60 million on Google LLC and €40 million on Google Ireland Limited.

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