why user ratings should not be trusted

When the first online stores opened at the end of the 1990s, the opinions of Internet users seemed to be a dream of consumers: they would enlighten them, and prevent them from getting lost in shelves overflowing with similar products. They constitute “a shift in the balance of power” face of brands, according to Daria Plotkina, teacher and researcher in marketing interviewed by The world. an avatar of “the wisdom of crowds dear to the pioneers of the Web”, for Andreas Munzel, Professor of Marketing.

For two decades, the popularity of ratings and stars continues to grow, until they become indispensable to us. In 2020, according to the Yougov pollster, 93% of Internet users use it, 72% having already given up on a purchase after consulting it. Reviews are king, but fake reviews are never far away.

Frequent and widespread fake reviews

On the Internet, counterfeiters infiltrate hotel and restaurant catalogs, craftsmen’s and garages’ files, the pages of the smallest consumer product, from smartphones to shoes. “The fraud is quite widespread, confirms Romain Roussel, Chief of Staff for the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF). And quite common. » A troubled neighborhood that makes the points filed, with sincerity, by Internet users, for Internet users, pale.

It is difficult to quantify a phenomenon that varies from one store and from one product to another. According to various researchers and research works consulted, the rate of fakes fluctuates, without certainty, around 20%. Sufficient to weigh on the product rating. And enough to disqualify a brand that refuses to cheat.

According to a study by the American media PC Mag, three quarters of Americans are confident in their ability to distinguish between real and fake reviews on Amazon. But researcher Daria Plotkina is adamant: “Even when they are very confident, Internet users are almost always wrong”. Is there any hope that consumers can practice this delicate exercise? “I could not provide solid criteria on which individuals could rely,” regrets Andreas Munzel, also the author of a dissertation on this subject:

“The markers of fraud vary from one study to another, they are often even contradictory ».


Is a product rated several thousand times a guarantee of authenticity? Not necessarily. Such volume may indicate that the product, perhaps already on the strength of a few false notes, sold so well that the trader was able to continue investing in additional misleading reviews. Or more simply that a robot has posted a huge amount of fake comments there.

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