In assessing each site, we have followed a criteria of awarding points for:
• Verified reviews - reviewer has paid for services / goods and can be fully identified. As the intention is to identify what are likely to be the most honest and reliable reviews, this has been given the greatest weighting
• Verified identity of reviewer - i.e., not a proven customer, but identified (applies to some but few sites)
• Systems to report problems / raise disputes over reviews
• Businesses able to respond to reviews without charges / fees
• Site verifies that emails given are real by sending confirmation email (low weighting because of ease of abuse)
• Authors can be contacted to query reviews (usually via a private message system)
• Website provides details of ownership
Points are deducted for:
• Charging businesses for rebuttal / removal - high penalty weighting because of scope for coercive practice
• Claims of authentication / trust on unverified sites, where tests have demonstrated otherwise (misleading statements)
• Low levels of review fraud protection / detection - according to tests carried out
• Out of date reviews - reviews left published that are over 18 months old (would be acceptable if sites allowed visitors to see older, archived reviews if they wished)
• High levels of serious and unsubstantiated allegations, such as criminality and other breaches concerning elements such as health and safety (if a site was to provide correct advice to reviewers about such allegations, including how to report to the appropriate authorities to better protect consumers and also possible acts of defamation, this would alleviate some aspects of this problem)
The 4 star sites in this initial list would be elevated to 5 star if they were to enable businesses to publicly respond. This is the result of significant feedback that argues that even though a review may come from a verified customer, there may be extenuating circumstances or mistaken assumptions that the owners could advise on.
The rated websites are welcome to contact KwikChex to discuss the precise methodology used, provide information that may lead to corrections and determine ways to increase the rating.
KwikChex is also strongly recommending actions that include:
• Introducing a 'Proof of Purchase Available' system. We believe that there are methods that can make this practical, without carrying out full verification on every review posted
• Removal or archiving of reviews that are over 18 months old
• Special procedures, including immediate advice to reviewers and businesses when reviews contain serious allegations such as criminality and health and safety breaches
Restaurants and other sectors
Restaurants were not included in this release. There are an extensive number of review sites specifically dedicated to this sector and the top reviews sites in this sector will be rated and published next, followed by general reviews sites and other specialist sectors.
We will also be publishing a 'severe concerns' list which will include sites that demand payment before allowing a business to respond or dispute reviews and allegations. We also believe we have found evidence of sites that have been set up by businesses to promote themselves and denigrate competitors.