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October 01, 2021

One quarter of Yelp reviews are fake

If you regularly visit Yelp.ca to help you decide whether you should eat at a restaurant, you might want to do more research before visiting. The customer review website says that a quarter of its online reviews could be fake, according to the BBC.

The company commented after a Harvard business school study stated that 20 per cent of online reviews on Yelp were fake. The company has an automatic filter for fake reviews, but that doesn't mean it catches all of them.

Any business would be foolish not to consider their online footprint. The popularity of social media has allowed customers to publically air their public grievances and in many cases, complaints spread much more rapidly than they would have if you complained to a friend in person. Many larger companies are hiring employees to monitor social media and in many cases, communicate directly with unhappy customers.

Fake online reviews are taken pretty seriously these days. The New York attorney general recently cracked down on 19 companies that help write fake reviews that can be found all over the Internet. Operation Clean Turf, a year-long probe investigating misleading advertising, led to fines ranging from $25,000 to $100,000.

"This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution," New York's attorney general Eric Schneiderman told the Guardian.

Yelp recently filed a lawsuit against a North Vancouver man for allegedly posting fake reviews and earning money from it.

All in all, it's better for the consumer that governments are cracking down on fake reviews. The Internet is a game changing tool in the customer-business relationship. It's changed the dynamic of the relationship and in many cases it's led to direct benefits for customers. United Breaks Guitars is one of the most memorable cases, a Youtube video created by a Canadian singer when he claimed his guitar was broken by baggage handlers, which was a PR nightmare for the company.

But how far is too far when it comes to customer complaints? An unhappy customer recently bought a promoted tweet complaining about lost luggage.

How much online research do you do before visiting a restaurant or paying for a service?

Josephine Lim, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...