Sharing economy needs “accurate reviews”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released guidance for platform operators in the sharing economy, along with guidance for consumers, service providers and sellers outlining their rights and obligations under the Australian Consumer Law.

From Uber, eBay, Gumtree and Tripadvisor, Australians have been very enthusiastic adopters of the sharing economy.

The sharing economy provides consumers with increased choice and offers individuals new ways of generating income. The roles of platform operators, consumers, sellers and service providers are all interrelated and it is important that each understand their specific legal obligations under the Australian Consumer Law,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

The ACCC’s guidance for platform operators highlights the importance of having and disclosing policies around the operation of reviews. The ACCC’s recent participation in the ICPEN annual internet sweep identified 29 sharing economy platforms in Australia that use reviews. More than two thirds of these failed to disclose policies about how the review process operates.

“The sweep showed that there is not a lot of information available about whether reviews can be edited, removed or disputed by users or the platform itself; or what processes are in place to ensure that reviews are genuine,” Ms Rickard said.

“Accurate reviews are important to the sharing economy, not just in terms of determining quality, but as an important indicator of trust and safety.”

How to spot a possibly fake review? The ACCC offers the following tips:

  • the review is part of a sudden spike in reviews for a trader or consumer (positive or negative)
  • the review uses the same or similar language to other reviews about the trader or consumer
  • the review is written from the same email or IP address as another review for the trader or consumer, or the trader or consumer that is reviewed, or an intermediary working for the trader or consumer (such as a reputation management company)
  • the review is written in an overly positive tone, and uses ‘marketing speak’
  • the review is written in an overly negative tone and recommends use of another product.
  • the review doesn’t make sense
  • the review uses the same exact language as other reviews of the same business or product.

 

In other words, a bit of common sense goes a long way.

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