Reminder: Never Fully Trust Online Product Reviews

Reminder: Never Fully Trust Online Product Reviews

When buying something online, most people look straight for the star or review rating. It’s a good indication of the quality of the product, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that informs your decision.

It’s something I’ve done time and time again — filtered out or sorted by product reviews when I’m looking for a new gadget or clothing item. Even when it comes to choosing where I grab coffee or dinner, I’ll always look straight at the rating sign and anything that dips below four stars makes me suspicious.

Now obviously, not every user-generated review is going to be an exact indication of the quality of product or service you’ll receive, but many reviews taken as a whole can paint a general picture.

But when it comes to reviews on the seller’s site, you should be a little more wary.

In a recent Reddit thread, u/kidsolo believes a negative review of a product purchased at JB Hi-Fi was unfairly left off the site.

The user allegedly submitted a review claiming that a gaming chair they’d bought had deteriorated in months, and provided a picture of the wear. The user then alleges JB Hi-Fi said the review did not meet its content guidelines and therefore wouldn’t be published.

According to site’s terms of service, the company can “edit, amend or remove UGC [user-generated content] in its absolute discretion without notice to you”.

So, it is plausible that a review was removed for being negative, though it could be for any number of other reasons too. The product listing does have six reviews and all are four stars and above.

Regardless, it serves as a good reminder that product ratings listed on a site that directly benefits from you buying that product shouldn’t be taken as the ultimate truth.

Instead, it’s a wise idea to do your research and find out where else the product is listed, how it’s reviewed and consider what other options are available.

Even if you do end up purchasing a dud, like our Redditor above, Australian consumer law should sort you out with some options — refund, repair or replacement — provided your situation is reasonable.

At the end of the day, it’s tough to really trust any reviews on the internet, but looking at one source is not nearly enough. Do your research, find trusted reviewers or publications that take the time to tell you whether a product is worth it, and always take anonymous reviews with a grain of salt.

If you do suspect something dodgy is happening and reviews are being curated or manipulated, let the ACCC know and they can look into it.

Lifehacker Australia has contacted JB Hi-Fi for a response on its review policy.

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