British shoppers are being warned to watch out for bogus customer reviews this Christmas.
The warning comes as new research from YouGov reveals that customer reviews are five times more likely to influence online shoppers to part with their cash than advertising.
The study, commissioned by independent customer review service Reevoo, shows the increasing impact of shopper opinion on British online shopping habits as Britain heads towards what is predicted to be a record £42 billion e-Christmas this year.
Six out of ten people (60 per cent) say online opinions written by consumers who have already bought a product would affect their choice of what to buy.
In contrast, just 12 per cent said they would be swayed by online advertising.
Chief executive of Reevoo, Richard Anson, said, "The influence of reviews is no longer in doubt and we think it is time that regulators looked at the way that customer reviews are presented online.
“Are they edited? Are they legitimate? Given the influence that customer reviews have, now is the time for regulation and standards to be applied, so that customers are not misled."
The call for regulation follows several high-profile cases of bogus online reviews highlighted by the consumer organisation, Which?.
The study also reveals that shoppers are beginning to wake up to the possibility of fake reviews and won't believe everything they read online.
While eight out of ten (79 per cent) are influenced by impartial ratings from shoppers who have definitely bought a product, only 14 per cent would trust review programmes that are directly managed by retailers.
More than a third (36 per cent) of consumers are worried about the authenticity of retailer-managed customer review programmes.
Which? recently warned that some glowing internet profiles of hotels and restaurants are actually written by the hotel owners themselves
Amid concerns that some online ratings are just too good to be true, eight out of ten online shoppers agree that it should be a regulatory requirement for published reviews to be written by customers who have genuinely bought a product
Another 84 per cent think genuine customer reviews should carry a kite mark making it clear they are from a real purchaser and fully independent of the retailer.
The YouGov survey of 2,035 online adults shows shoppers of all ages are influenced by online reviews, although the figures are highest for those aged between 35 and 44, at 64 per cent.
Among the over-55s and 18-24 year-olds, 58 per cent said shopper ratings would influence their choice of product. Men are more likely to read and act on internet opinions, at 62 per cent compared with 57 per cent for women.
Despite growing controversy over price comparison websites, which don't always reveal their commercial relationships with product providers, 71 per cent of people said these would influence their decision whether or not to buy.
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