Currin Compliance is located in upstate NY. This week there has been a lot of publicity about NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s investigation into false online reviews of businesses. When I started reading the articles, I kept hoping I would not see any insurance related examples cited and I did not. I am hopeful that the insurance industry will avoid this growing problem, but I am concerned because of the increasing importance of online reviews to consumers.
The Saratogian’s article of September 24, 2013 references a Nielsen consumer survey that found “online reviews were the second most trusted form of advertising after word-of-mouth by family and friends.” Further, the survey revealed that “70 percent of customers worldwide trust online reviews, rising 15 percent in four years.” The problem, according to Schneiderman’s investigation is that many of the online reviews are false. His office has settled cases with 19 companies for $350,000 in penalties.
Insurance is a business based on trust. It could be appealing for an insurance producer to use services that promote online visibility and include trumped up online reviews of their knowledge, experience and performance for clients. It could be promoted as effective use of social media and promoting one’s image in that realm. I am very hopeful that the insurance industry can learn from others and avoid this trap. It might sound perfectly reasonable when pitched as a way to increase one’s visibility and reputation. But false reviews are not harmless and Mr. Schneiderman has sent a warning this week. I hope the industry is listening.