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How to respond to a fraudulent online review

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The internet age allows runaway PR success. Word-of-mouth is an extremely strong marketing tool, and word spreads nowhere as fast as online: but bad news can travel just as quickly as good. 

Companies can snipe their competitors, leaving negative reviews on products and creating bad impression for their competitors’ products. Online reviews and comment sections are taken increasingly seriously by consumers, even as they become more vocal in their opinions on social networks like Twitter which allow them to directly contact companies. 

A bad review, tweet or otherwise comment can have a affect on perception of the product.

How can a young company, for whom every sale is important, deal with these reviews when they happen? The first step is to be sure the review is fraudulent. If you have been told or have a reason for strong suspicions (such as other forms of attack) then it’s time to pursue action.

Contact the reviewer

Your first port of call is to contact the reviewer, explaining your concerns that the review isn’t genuine, and suggesting they remove it. If you receive no response or they deny the review is a fake: send another, more firm response. Use that magical phrase, “I will pursue further action”, and it might frighten them into taking it down. 

Conversely, it might turn out their review was genuine, and will lay out their feedback in greater detail: only ever a positive outcome.

Report it to the review service

If the review was left on a third-party website like Amazon: you have the option of reporting the review and/or the account. In some cases raising a dispute could ‘hide’ the comment, mitigating any bad PR. 

In this case, be sure you have sufficient evidence for your claim. Getting that evidence might be tricky for it is notoriously easy to be anonymous online. Then again, where there’s a will…

Submit a witness summons to the review service

… There’s an IP address. Though many services take pains to guarantee their users anonymity, a user suspected of foul-play can be rooted out if the charge is taken seriously enough. However, because they take such pains with anonymity, they are notoriously protective of client data and breaking down these barriers will take time. If the reviews is seriously libellous then you may want to take legal advice on how to pursue things further. 

Correct the review

Simply comment on the review with something like, “We are the producers of this product, and have reason to believe fraudulent reviews are being left here by our competitors”. This informs people of your situation, or even better: some might be won over by the plight of a small business in such fierce, dog-eat-dog competition.

At all times, maintain a calm voice and don’t get caught in, to use internet parlance, a “flame war” with your competitor. By using the internet as a smokescreen, many companies can do damage to their competitors by covert means. Defending from these attacks is never easy, but is certainly possible.

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