Retailers may have to start checking whether online reviews are genuine under new guidelines from the British Standards Institution.
An estimated £23 billion of spending is thought to be influenced by consumer reviews every year in the UK, but concerns have been raised by the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) over the influence of fake reviews.
In response, the BSI has published a new standard, dubbed ISO 20488, for retailers and other companies to ensure the validity of online reviews.
The new international standard, which retailers currently only have to follow voluntarily, requires those posting reviews to verify they’re genuine customers by providing contact details.
Customers can still choose to remain anonymous online, but will still have to provide details to the retailer so they can check the reviewer is genuine.
Users could also be provided with an option to flag reviews they think are inappropriate or fake, and the original reviewer will be given a right to response.
“Millions of us depend on consumer reviews to guide our purchases, and they are a valuable tool to build trust in ecommerce,” BSI head of sustainability David Fatscher said.
“At their best, online reviews empower consumers and suppliers and allow the sharing of genuine information and experiences. At their worst, reviews can be false, and spread misinformation among consumers.
“This guidance strikes the right balance between verifying the authenticity of a review whilst respecting the reviewer’s right to privacy.
“ISO 20488 is an answer to the current thorny issue of online reviews, where a lack of standardized guidance has left consumers in the dark as to the accuracy of a review.”
Major review sites like TrustPilot and Bazaarvoice have already committed to the new standard.