New international standards launched for online consumer reviews

Online reviews affect businesses across virtually every sector, from hotels and media to retail, merchants and – in some cases – even wholesalers.

A new international standard, ISO 20488, has been set out primarily for online consumer review platforms – an estimated £23 billion a year of UK consumer spending is potentially influence by online reviews. It addresses the issue of misleading consumer reviews and aims to protect an organisation’s reputation against such reviews.

The new voluntary standard requires those posting reviews to verify they come from genuine consumers. Retailers must be able to provide contact details for those reviewing their products or services, and must ensure reviews reflect the balance of comments received. The standard requires that information is stored confidentially in accordance with GDPR regulations and allows anonymous reviews as long as contact details are available to check reviews are genuine.

Fake reviews

Guidance is given on how review administrators deal with concerns over fake reviews, including criteria for the removal of reviews after their publication. The option to ‘flag’ inappropriate content should be given to regular users as well as moderators, and requirements for a right of response by the suppliers is outlined. It is recommended in the guidance that review administrators keep a record of all illicit reviews, and all documents attached to the reviews, for at least one year from the removal date.

David Fatscher, Head of Sustainability and Services at BSI, said: “Millions of us depend on consumer reviews to guide our purchases, and they are a valuable tool to build trust in ecommerce. At their best, online reviews empower consumers and suppliers and allow the sharing of genuine information and experiences. At their worst, reviews can be false, and spread misinformation among consumers.

“This guidance strikes the right balance between verifying the authenticity of a review whilst respecting the reviewer’s right to privacy. ISO 20488 is an answer to the current thorny issue of online reviews, where a lack of standardised guidance has left consumers in the dark as to the accuracy of a review.”

ISO 20488 Online consumer reviews – Principles and requirements for their collection, moderation and publication is applicable to any organisation that publishes consumer reviews online, including suppliers of goods and services that collect reviews from their own customers, a third party contracted by the supplier, or an independent third party.