Online shopping has made deep inroads in India with millions of Indians logging on to e-commerce websites to buy things online - from gadgets to apparels to food, grocery and healthcare products.
Sometimes shoppers are sure of the product quality, but there are times when people are not confident of goods they are planning to buy online. So what do they do in such cases? They look at rating of a particular product to check how many have rated it 5-star, read comments to find out how happy existing owners of the product are.
Such reviews help them in making our choice, and are considered safe. But are they?
An investigative report done by the BBC has revealed that a lot of five-star ratings and positive reviews are traded online. Not just global websites, it's been discovered that this practice is common on Indian e-commerce websites as well.
So how does this work? It's a simple reward-driven business model where both businesses and customers are gaining. A customer is asked to make good ratings and write positive reviews so that businesses can get more customers. The buyers, on the other hand, are also benefitting they are rewarded with free goods and full refund in exchange of positive reviews.
Some people or merchants directly contact prospective clients to write fake reviews through emails, guaranteeing a return. Sending emails is just one way. There are now Facebook groups as well for the same where customers are encouraged to buy certain products and post positive reviews in exchange for monetary and non-monetary rewards.
WION approached Amazon, Ebay and Flipkart to understand the measures they are taking to curb this black market of fake online reviews. Amazon replied saying, "Acknowledging your email. We have shared internally and the relevant team member will connect with you." However, there has been no communication from the e-retailer after that. Flipkart and Ebay, on the other hand, have not responded to the mail yet.
While fake reviews are being traded openly on the Internet, sadly it's not easy to track people making these offers and in some cases, it's not even possible to track businesses the reviews are being sought for.
The business of fake reviews is attracting a lot of customers and giving them an easy way to make money, so much so that some people have made it their full-time profession.
While a lot of online companies are aggressively working towards cracking down on bogus reviews, the fact remains the black market of online reviews is only increasing day by day.