‘Dubious tactics’ used on review websites

Firms are using dubious tactics to boost their scores on review site Trustpilot, an investigation has claimed.

Which? reported the review tactics to the CMA.
Which? reported the review tactics to the CMA.

Consumer group Which? said it had found that accommodation rental firm Sykes Holiday Cottages, racked up thousands of five-star ratings on the review site at a time when holidays were banned due to the coronavirus lockdown and it was being widely panned by its customers for withholding refunds after bookings were cancelled.

Which? said it uncovered evidence suggesting that the firm may not have been inviting all of its customers to leave a review in March or April, a time when many customers were struggling to get a refund from the firm. Some customers told Which? at the end of May that they had still not been asked to leave a review.

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Investigators found evidence that the company appeared to be using Trustpilot’s invitation system to improve its chances of attracting positive scores, while avoiding the likelihood of receiving negative feedback.

Of the 5,698 invitations Sykes sent out in April, 60 per cent resulted in five star reviews. In the same period, Sykes received 718 “organic” reviews - those posted spontaneously, without an invitation - but just three per cent of these were five stars.

Sykes was reported to the CMA by Which? and investigated for its refund policy, and as a result has reversed its policy on cancelled bookings and will now offer customers full refunds.

A Sykes Holiday Cottages spokeswoman said: “Every Sykes customer is sent an invitation to review their experience and all reviews, good or bad, are published. We have no influence over what they write and all reviews are genuine.”

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: “It’s right that the CMA’s ongoing investigation is now looking at major websites that display online reviews, and it must take the strongest possible action against sites that are failing to protect users on their platforms.”

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