According to a new study from Maritz Research, one in four consumers believe the information available on restaurant ratings sites is unfair, and many have concerns over biased or fake reviews.

Maritz Research's 2013 Online Customer Review Study surveyed more than 3,400 people about their use of 13 high-profile ratings sites. The sites named as the most trusted include:

  1. TripAdvisor (59 percent)
  2. Zagat (59 percent)
  3. OpenTable (56 percent)
  4. (54 percent)
  5. Yelp (53 percent)

While older, highly visited sites were generally perceived as more trustworthy, more than one-third of visitors were still cautious of information on these sites.

"Many people we surveyed expressed concern over reviews on customer ratings sites being biased or even fake," said David Ensing, vice president of Voice of the Customer Integration for Maritz Research. "Many site visitors tend to believe that ratings sites select which reviews are posted, that employees post fake positive reviews for the companies they work for, and that raters only share their positive or negative experiences instead of sharing a balanced opinion."

For those who felt ratings sites were generally fair, many reported they still have to separate trustworthy reviews from non-trustworthy ones based on their own intuition. Specific survey respondents noted that they:

  • "Can usually tell when a review is fake — if it is overly positive."
  • "Try to determine if the review is legit or if the writer is out for revenge."
  • "Read between the lines to see what the reviewer is really saying and discount reviews that feel unfair."
  • "Try to read a range of reviews. If there are not enough reviews, [they] don't take it seriously."

"Our research indicates that there may be a credibility crisis on the horizon for online review sites," Ensing said. "If the lack of confidence in customer reviews continues, these sites could become obsolete. To address trust issues, companies and ratings sites should consider more secure and credible ways to provide customers with reviews that have been verified and aren't skewed."

Read more about trends and statistics.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • David Ensing
    Hi, this is David Ensing, the Maritz Research author of the study cited above. I just wanted to clear up a possible misperception. We noted that one in four people believe the information at rating sites is unfair (not one in four thought the information was fair). That means the majority of people feel that the information is generally fair.....but a rate of 25% thinking it is unfair is still troubling.
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