July 1, 2016 – New York – Denver – London – Melbourne – Copenhagen – Berlin – The International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) this week published guidelines outlining universal principles for online review industry stakeholders - including review platforms. The guidelines go hand-in-hand with Trustpilot’s continued commitment to trust and transparency and our work in investigating, reporting and fighting any misuse of our platform.
ICPEN’s guidelines for review administrators emphasize the importance of fairness, proactivity and transparency, and cover three key areas of the review process: Collecting, moderating and publishing reviews. While the guidelines reflect the ‘truth-in-advertising’ principles in each ICPEN member state, review platforms will still be required to comply with national laws and regulations governing their markets.
See below how Trustpilot complies with each area of the guidelines:
1. When collecting reviews, review sites should:
Publish terms and conditions for collection
All Trustpilot users, whether consumers or companies, must accept our terms and conditions before using Trustpilot. These rules are also accessible from any part of Trustpilot’s website.
Verify consumer reviews as authentic
Any consumer who has had a buying experience is entitled to leave a review on Trustpilot. They should, however, be able to document an order or prove their use of the reviewed company’s service. Trustpilot offers various free and paid tools to help companies collect verified reviews
Be fair in the way reviews are solicited
Companies inviting customers to review them on Trustpilot have to follow our ‘invite all customers or none’ principle, which is also described in our Company Guidelines. Or, if that's not possible, we require companies to select an equally impartial invitation system - such as inviting every third customer. To help companies invite in a neutral way, Trustpilot has published a set of best practices.
- Be fair in the use of ratings
On Trustpilot, a review consists of a 1-5 star rating and an accompanying text. All users have access to the same evaluation page for inputting reviews and no one is limited to leaving a negative or positive review. Consumers can see the total number of reviews for each business on the company’s profile, and also access information about the calculation of their overall rating - called a ‘TrustScore’.
- Disclose if the review platform or businesses have offered incentives
Trustpilot never offers incentives to consumers to leave a review. If Trustpilot is made aware of a company offering incentives to its customers to leave reviews, we will publish an information box on the company’s profile disclosing this.
- In addition to the above, Trustpilot also discloses whether companies actively invite their customers to review them
Companies that actively invite their customers to review them often receive reviews from a more representative group of customers. For companies that deliver a high level of customer service, this can result in a greater number of positive reviews and therefore a higher TrustScore. This is why Trustpilot has chosen to disclose this information to consumers on all company profiles.
2. When moderating reviews, review platforms should:
Maintain procedures for identification and removal of reviews
Trustpilot has developed customized fraud detection software that scans the platform 24/7 and uses different algorithms to detect suspicious patterns.
Appropriately moderate reviews
Reviews that are deemed fake are removed from Trustpilot’s platform and their authors are notified. Trustpilot’s Compliance Team investigates all reviews flagged by members of our online community as suspicious or problematic.
Act on trader complaints about reviews
Companies and users can flag reviews that don’t comply with our guidelines, and we also have a whistleblower function for reporting problematic reviews. When reporting a review, companies are required to explain to our community their reasons for doing so. To enhance transparency, the reasons for reporting reviews are made visible to the public. See more here: The journey of customer reviews on Trustpilot.
All reviews, whether flagged by users or companies, are investigated by our 35-person strong Compliance Team. Authors of problematic reviews are notified, and if it is possible to bring the review in line with our guidelines, given the opportunity to edit their review. If we don’t hear back from them, the review is moved offline, but never deleted. A user can always edit their review at a later stage, and if it complies with our guidelines, we put it online again.
Act to stop ‘phoenixing’ behaviour
We believe that consumers should be able to freely share their experiences with other consumers. That’s why companies cannot delete their profiles from Trustpilot.
3. Publishing reviews
Publish reviews in a neutral manner
All reviews are published on Trustpilot instantly and shown in chronological order on the company’s profile.
Disclose commercial relationships
Any company can use Trustpilot for free, but those companies who choose to subscribe to our paid services are marked by an information box on their profile page clearly disclosing this relationship to the consumer.