Glowing recommendations for a product or service may encourage you to try it out yourself, but consumer advocates warn against blindly trusting online reviews.
"It is very difficult for the consumer to decide which reviews are genuine and which ones are not," says Tatjana Halm from Verbraucherzentrale Bayern, a consumer advice centre in Germany.
It's important to put individual reviewers under the microscope, Halm advises. Some people post a lot of online reviews. If someone is reviewing lots of shops and restaurants in different places over a short timespan, that could be an indication of a fake review.
You should also be suspicious if a large number of negative reviews are followed by a few positive ones. That could be a non-neutral party actively trying to balance out the bad reviews with good ones, the consumer advocate says.
There are also manufacturers, service providers and websites that reward customers or users with coupons if they give positive reviews. Such manipulative practices mean the reviews can't be trusted, Halm says.
"You should look at different portals and draw comparisons," she advises.
It's also useful to know who is allowed to post a review. A verified review means that only genuine customers or buyers are permitted to leave one.
Ultimately, however, it remains questionable whether online reviews can offer a representative and trustworthy picture of a product or service.
"In the final analysis, you always have to be suspicious," Halm says. – dpa
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