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Up to 47% of Contractors may be Using Fake Reviews, Study Reveals

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A study based on 10 years of reviews indicates up to 47% of home service contractors in some work categories may be using fake online reviews to attract homeowners. The startling revelation comes at a time when home improvement disputes and problems continue to dominate the consumer complaints received in Canada.

The findings were released by TrustedPros Inc. after analyzing the customer review data collected by TrustedPros.ca since 2004. The home improvement and contractor review website employs a validation team that closely screens each review after it is submitted, making sure that it's not posted by the contractor themselves, their family, friends, or employees. Any review that fails to clear the screening procedures is flagged as "suspicious" and disapproved for publishing.

The current study segregates contractors planting fake reviews by industry, city and province. For each city, province, and service category, the total number of contractors suspected of posting fictitious reviews was divided by total number of reviewed companies in that area/category. The results disclose some interesting facts.

Mover, Locksmith and Pest Control

Moving companies top the list of fake reviews with 47.83% of reviews flagged as suspicious and removed from the TrustedPros website. Locksmiths, pest control, window cleaning, home theater, and duct cleaning businesses were close contenders, with 40% or more of their reviews believed to be bogus.

Carpenter, Siding and General Contractor

On a positive note, high value service categories show a less scary probability of posting fake reviews. These include kitchen, bathroom, basement, and additions contractors. An average of about 14% of their reviews were marked as bogus. Carpenters, siding contractors, handymen, and general contractors appear to be the safest as far as reviews are concerned, with only 4% 5% of their reviews were identified as dubious.

Montreal, Toronto and Halifax

Based on location only, contractors in Laval and Bolton had around 40% of their reviews flagged as suspicious while Montreal and Toronto rounded out the top 10 with 29% and 28% respectively. Quebec tops the list of provinces with 24.32% while Prince Edward Island appears to be a trusted place for online contractor feedback, with only 6.32% of their reviews believed to be fictitious.

As the home improvement industry becomes more and more dependent on the Internet, contractors with less experience or a less than perfect work history may try building a false online reputation to stay competitive and generate business. Whatever the motivations and methods for planting fake reviews, the fact remains that they are bad for homeowners.

The responsibility to curb planted reviews lies with contractor outsourcing websites as much as it lies with the contractors themselves. However, even major review websites do a shoddy job at weeding out fictitious reviews.

Most of these sites run the reviews through a simple algorithm that tracks the IP address and scans for keywords believed to be prevalent in fake reviews. Some sites might randomly select reviews for manual screening just to say that they "screen reviews."

Man searching for a contractor using Google

Looking more closely, fake reviews refuse to die down because a synergy exists between some review websites and unscrupulous contractors. Review websites need more and more content for appearing higher in the search results for sites like Google, Yahoo and Bing. They don't see it as a problem when contractors submit fake reviews, because to them, it's just content. Some websites might even allow the businesses to submit reviews on behalf of their "clients."

Sites that do a better job at controlling fake reviews have to make extra efforts and bear the cost of screening and rejecting "content." This is not just a problem with contractor review sites, but some of the biggest online outsourcing platforms benefit greatly from their "look the other way" attitude towards reviews.

The lax screening procedures used by many major review sites make them easy targets for unethical businesses looking for the path of least resistance to falsely build their online reputation. As a result, fake reviews continue thriving, and homeowners continue losing money to bad contractors they hired because of their glowing online reviews.

"I think the homeowners hiring contractors online should only hire from reputable websites that have a proper review validation system in place," says Max Sheppard, CEO of TrustedPros. Last month, TrustedPros launched the new contractor rating system "TrustScore,"an aggregate score that takes into account factors like fake reviews, internal and external complaints, supplier relations, work history, and more.

"We believe customers come to our website with the trust that the information is honest and correct," says Max. "We reject nearly 30% of all reviews we receive because they don't appear to be genuine."

The truth is, no website may ever be able to sniff out every fictitious review. People looking for shortcuts and loopholes will always find ways to bypass the best detectors and plant deceptive reviews. The algorithms used to "identify" fake reviews are lousy at doing their job on their own. It's only when they're combined with stringent manual checks that they really help to sniff out the fakes.

Currently, there is legislation in place to persecute Canadian businesses that participate in posting fake reviews. The Competition Act strictly prohibits the use of fictitious testimonials and views them as misleading representation and deceptive marketing practices. First-time offenders can face financial penalties However, most consumers are unaware that this law exists.

Contractor review and outsourcing websites need to make concerted efforts and evolve an industry standard for ensuring the authenticity of reviews. These reviews lead to big decisions involving large sums of money. With the legislation already in place, a joint commitment by review websites to uphold their users' trust can greatly reduce the prevalent malpractice.

Here are the complete findings of the study

Home service related businesses believed to have attempted to post fake reviews listed by:

Category

# Category Fake Reviews (%)
1 Moving Companies 47.83%
2 Locksmith Companies 44.44%
3 Pest Control Companies 42.86%
4 Window Cleaning Companies 41.18%
5 Home Theater Companies 40.00%
6 Duct Cleaning Companies 40.00%
7 Snow Removal Companies 33.33%
8 Trash Removal Companies 30.77%
9 House Cleaning Companies 30.00%
10 Mold Removal Companies 29.03%
11 HVAC Contractors 25.30%
12 Carpet Cleaning Companies 25.00%
13 Water Heater Companies 25.00%
14 Interior Designers 21.43%
15 Landscaping Companies 21.19%
16 Painting Contractors 16.86%
17 Home Staging Companies 16.67%
18 Data Wiring Companies 16.67%
19 Excavation Contractors 16.67%
20 Demolition Companies 15.79%
21 Home Construction Companies 15.38%
22 Electricians 15.34%
23 Home Addition Contractors 14.41%
24 Sunroom Builders 14.29%
25 Irrigation Companies 14.29%
26 Basement Contractors 13.81%
27 Home Inspection Companies 13.64%
28 Kitchen Contractors 13.63%
29 Bathroom Contractors 13.01%
30 Plumbers 12.90%
31 Bathtub Refinishing Companies 12.50%
32 Skylight Companies 12.50%
33 Garage Door Companies 12.50%
34 Stucco Contractors 12.50%
35 Masonry Contractors 12.50%
36 Roofing Contractors 12.50%
37 Gutter Contractors 12.12%
38 Floor Laying Contractors 11.51%
39 Restoration Companies 11.48%
40 Drywall Contractors 11.18%
41 Tree Companies 11.11%
42 Lawn Care Companies 11.11%
43 Countertop Companies 10.53%
44 Concrete Contractors 10.43%
45 Commercial Contractors 10.42%
46 Foundation Repair Contractors 10.00%
47 Waterproofing Contractors 10.00%
48 Architects 10.00%
49 Basement Lowering Contractors 10.00%
50 Insulation Contractors 9.52%
51 Property Maintenance Companies 9.38%
52 Gas Line Installation Companies 9.09%
53 Swimming Pool Contractors 9.09%
54 Design Build Companies 8.70%
55 Fence Companies 8.63%
56 Deck Builders 8.62%
57 Floor Refinishing Companies 8.57%
58 Foundation Contractors 8.33%
59 Windows and Doors Companies 7.95%
60 Tiling Contractors 7.82%
61 Paving Companies 7.69%
62 Appliance Repair Companies 7.14%
63 Plastering Contractors 6.67%
64 Framing Contractors 6.58%
65 Carpet Installers 5.88%
66 Caulking Contractors 5.56%
67 General Contractors 5.35%
68 Carpenters 5.14%
69 Handyman Services 5.10%
70 Sheds & Gazebos Builders 4.76%
71 Cabinet Makers 4.35%
72 Siding Contractors 4.26%

Province

# Province Fake Reviews (%)
1 Quebec 24.32%
2 Ontario 17.15%
3 British Columbia 17.01%
4 Saskatchewan 16.67%
5 Manitoba 16.28%
6 Nova Scotia 15.38%
7 Alberta 13.50%
8 New Brunswick 7.56%
9 Newfoundland 7.24%
10 Prince Edward Island 6.32%

Province and Category

# Province Category Fake Reviews (%)
1 Alberta Moving Companies 75.00%
2 Manitoba Landscaping Companies 57.14%
3 Saskatchewan Roofing Contractors 50.00%
4 Quebec Electricians 50.00%
5 Ontario Moving Companies 50.00%
6 Ontario Duct Cleaning Companies 41.67%
7 British Columbia Siding Contractors 40.00%
8 Ontario Snow Removal Companies 38.46%
9 Saskatchewan Electricians 33.33%
10 Ontario Pest Control Companies 33.33%
11 Ontario Carpet Cleaning Companies 33.33%
12 Ontario Garage Door Companies 33.33%
13 Saskatchewan Kitchen Contractors 33.33%
14 Ontario Home Theater Companies 33.33%
15 Ontario Mold Removal Companies 33.33%
16 Ontario House Cleaning Companies 30.77%
17 Ontario HVAC Contractors 29.03%
18 Saskatchewan Deck Builders 25.00%
19 Manitoba Windows and Doors Companies 25.00%
20 Quebec Roofing Contractors 25.00%
21 British Columbia Home Construction Companies 23.08%
22 Alberta Plumbers 23.08%
23 Alberta HVAC Contractors 22.22%
24 Ontario Landscaping Companies 20.18%
25 British Columbia Moving Companies 20.00%
26 Saskatchewan Plumbers 20.00%
27 Saskatchewan Concrete Contractors 20.00%
28 Alberta Painting Contractors 19.15%
29 British Columbia Landscaping Companies 18.75%
30 Manitoba Kitchen Contractors 18.75%
31 British Columbia Kitchen Contractors 18.57%
32 Quebec Basement Contractors 18.52%
33 British Columbia Home Addition Contractors 18.18%
34 Quebec Kitchen Contractors 17.86%
35 British Columbia Bathroom Contractors 16.85%
36 Ontario Painting Contractors 16.82%
37 Ontario Tree Companies 16.67%
38 Alberta Home Addition Contractors 16.67%
39 Alberta Insulation Contractors 16.67%
40 Ontario Skylight Companies 16.67%
41 Quebec Plumbers 16.67%
42 Ontario Interior Designers 16.67%
43 Manitoba Painting Contractors 16.67%
44 Ontario Stucco Contractors 16.67%
45 Alberta Fence Companies 16.00%
46 Ontario Electricians 15.97%
47 Ontario Basement Contractors 15.84%
48 Ontario Property Maintenance Companies 15.79%
49 Ontario Demolition Companies 15.38%
50 Alberta Restoration Companies 15.38%
51 Alberta Concrete Contractors 15.00%
52 Quebec Bathroom Contractors 14.63%
53 Quebec Deck Builders 14.29%
54 Saskatchewan Basement Contractors 14.29%
55 Alberta Roofing Contractors 14.29%
56 Alberta Electricians 13.79%
57 British Columbia Electricians 13.64%
58 Ontario Home Addition Contractors 13.58%
59 Ontario Masonry Contractors 13.33%
60 Ontario Bathroom Contractors 12.94%
61 Ontario Water Heater Companies 12.50%
62 Manitoba Roofing Contractors 12.50%
63 Saskatchewan Bathroom Contractors 12.50%
64 Manitoba Bathroom Contractors 12.50%
65 Ontario Restoration Companies 12.50%
66 Manitoba General Contractors 12.50%
67 British Columbia Floor Laying Contractors 12.50%
68 British Columbia Painting Contractors 12.50%
69 Ontario Floor Laying Contractors 12.38%
70 Ontario Kitchen Contractors 12.31%
71 Alberta Deck Builders 12.07%
72 Ontario Foundation Repair Contractors 11.76%
73 British Columbia Carpenters 11.76%
74 Alberta Floor Laying Contractors 11.43%
75 British Columbia Roofing Contractors 11.43%
76 Ontario Commercial Contractors 11.43%
77 Ontario Carpet Installers 11.11%
78 Ontario Paving Companies 11.11%
79 Ontario Waterproofing Contractors 11.11%
80 Ontario Roofing Contractors 10.75%
81 Ontario Insulation Contractors 10.71%
82 Ontario Drywall Contractors 10.48%
83 British Columbia Tiling Contractors 10.26%
84 Alberta Mold Removal Companies 10.00%
85 Saskatchewan Carpenters 10.00%
86 Alberta Basement Contractors 9.80%
87 Alberta Kitchen Contractors 9.52%
88 British Columbia Deck Builders 9.26%
89 Alberta Home Construction Companies 9.09%
90 Alberta Landscaping Companies 9.09%
91 Ontario Caulking Contractors 9.09%
92 Ontario Windows and Doors Companies 8.33%
93 Ontario Tiling Contractors 8.18%
94 Ontario Plumbers 8.05%
95 Alberta Tiling Contractors 8.00%
96 Alberta General Contractors 7.96%
97 Alberta Bathroom Contractors 7.87%
98 Ontario Plastering Contractors 7.69%
99 Alberta Framing Contractors 7.69%
100 Ontario Deck Builders 7.50%
101 Ontario Fence Companies 7.23%
102 Ontario Home Inspection Companies 7.14%
103 Saskatchewan General Contractors 6.67%
104 Ontario Framing Contractors 6.67%
105 British Columbia General Contractors 6.31%
106 Alberta Garage Builders 6.25%
107 Ontario Concrete Contractors 6.25%
108 Ontario Handyman Services 6.11%
109 Manitoba Deck Builders 5.88%
110 Alberta Cabinet Makers 5.88%
111 British Columbia Windows and Doors Companies 5.56%
112 Ontario Design Build Companies 5.41%
113 Ontario Stonework Contractors 5.00%
114 Quebec General Contractors 4.88%
115 Alberta Handyman Services 4.76%
116 Alberta Carpenters 4.76%
117 British Columbia Handyman Services 4.65%
118 Ontario Countertop Companies 4.55%
119 Ontario General Contractors 4.39%
120 Manitoba Basement Contractors 4.35%
121 Ontario Ceiling Contractors 4.08%
122 Ontario Carpenters 4.00%

City

# City Fake Reviews (%)
1 Laval 42.86%
2 Bolton 40.00%
3 Halifax 37.50%
4 Richmond 37.50%
5 Ajax 34.48%
6 Kingston 33.33%
7 Richmond Hill 31.11%
8 Montreal 29.27%
9 Red Deer 28.57%
10 Toronto 28.00%
11 Burnaby 26.47%
12 Aurora 26.32%
13 Vancouver 25.64%
14 Surrey 25.00%
15 Concord 23.81%
16 Pickering 23.53%
17 Hamilton 22.99%
18 Brampton 22.83%
19 Langley 22.73%
20 Ottawa 22.43%
21 Innisfil 21.43%
22 Markham 21.43%
23 London 19.57%
24 Coquitlam 19.05%
25 Oakville 18.97%
26 Burlington 18.97%
27 Mississauga 18.56%
28 Regina 18.18%
29 Winnipeg 18.10%
30 Edmonton 17.44%
31 Woodbridge 16.67%
32 Barrie 15.25%
33 Saskatoon 15.15%
34 Guelph 13.79%
35 Vaughan 13.64%
36 Oshawa 13.33%
37 Calgary 13.15%
38 North York 12.77%
39 North Vancouver 12.50%
40 Etobicoke 12.20%
41 Newmarket 12.00%
42 Victoria 11.54%
43 Maple Ridge 11.54%
44 Scarborough 11.36%
45 Kitchener 10.70%
46 Nanaimo 10.24%
47 Georgetown 8.24%
48 Abbotsford 8.17%
49 Kelowna 7.24%
50 Windsor 6.89%

City and Category

# City Category Fake Reviews (%)
1 Richmond Hill Kitchen Contractors 55.56%
2 Mississauga HVAC Contractors 38.46%
3 Richmond Hill Basement Contractors 37.50%
4 Ottawa Floor Laying Contractors 37.50%
5 Hamilton Kitchen Contractors 36.36%
6 Brampton Bathroom Contractors 35.00%
7 Burnaby Bathroom Contractors 33.33%
8 Toronto Floor Laying Contractors 33.33%
9 Toronto Electricians 31.58%
10 Vancouver Kitchen Contractors 31.25%
11 Toronto Painting Contractors 30.30%
12 Vancouver Bathroom Contractors 30.00%
13 Laval Kitchen Contractors 28.57%
14 Vancouver Roofing Contractors 28.57%
15 Burlington Painting Contractors 28.57%
16 Surrey Floor Laying Contractors 28.57%
17 Calgary Painting Contractors 27.78%
18 Edmonton Floor Laying Contractors 27.27%
19 Toronto Basement Contractors 27.12%
20 Mississauga Floor Laying Contractors 26.09%
21 Newmarket Basement Contractors 25.00%
22 London Basement Contractors 25.00%
23 Montreal Basement Contractors 25.00%
24 Edmonton Tiling Contractors 25.00%
25 Winnipeg Windows and Doors Companies 25.00%
26 Ottawa Roofing Contractors 25.00%
27 Oakville Painting Contractors 25.00%
28 Vancouver Deck Builders 25.00%
29 Brampton Basement Contractors 25.00%
30 Mississauga Landscaping Companies 23.08%
31 Ajax Kitchen Contractors 22.22%
32 Calgary Fence Companies 22.22%
33 Richmond Hill General Contractors 22.22%
34 Ottawa Kitchen Contractors 22.22%
35 Mississauga Painting Contractors 21.74%
36 Montreal Bathroom Contractors 21.43%
37 Ottawa Bathroom Contractors 20.69%
38 Montreal Kitchen Contractors 20.00%
39 Winnipeg Kitchen Contractors 20.00%
40 Hamilton Basement Contractors 20.00%
41 Toronto Bathroom Contractors 20.00%
42 Toronto Windows and Doors Companies 18.75%
43 Toronto Deck Builders 17.39%
44 Winnipeg Painting Contractors 16.67%
45 Oakville Bathroom Contractors 16.67%
46 Oakville Basement Contractors 15.79%
47 Toronto Kitchen Contractors 15.69%
48 Toronto Waterproofing Contractors 15.38%
49 Winnipeg Bathroom Contractors 15.00%
50 Hamilton Drywall Contractors 14.29%
51 Scarborough Kitchen Contractors 14.29%
52 Milton Painting Contractors 14.29%
53 Barrie Painting Contractors 14.29%
54 Burnaby Kitchen Contractors 14.29%
55 Richmond Hill Floor Laying Contractors 14.29%
56 Maple Ridge Bathroom Contractors 14.29%
57 Langley Carpenters 14.29%
58 Scarborough Bathroom Contractors 14.29%
59 Ottawa Carpenters 14.29%
60 Brampton Kitchen Contractors 14.29%
61 Hamilton Bathroom Contractors 13.33%
62 Ottawa Basement Contractors 13.04%
63 Winnipeg General Contractors 12.90%
64 Oakville Handyman Services 12.50%
65 North York Basement Contractors 12.50%
66 Winnipeg Roofing Contractors 12.50%
67 Toronto Drywall Contractors 11.76%
68 Toronto Home Addition Contractors 11.76%
69 Montreal General Contractors 11.76%
70 Oakville General Contractors 11.54%
71 Mississauga Basement Contractors 11.36%
72 Newmarket Bathroom Contractors 11.11%
73 Calgary Basement Contractors 11.11%
74 Toronto Tiling Contractors 10.53%
75 Edmonton Bathroom Contractors 10.34%
76 Scarborough Basement Contractors 10.00%
77 Edmonton Concrete Contractors 10.00%
78 Toronto Roofing Contractors 10.00%
79 Toronto Fence Companies 10.00%
80 Oshawa Kitchen Contractors 10.00%
81 Edmonton Painting Contractors 10.00%
82 Hamilton General Contractors 10.00%
83 Mississauga Kitchen Contractors 10.00%
84 Edmonton General Contractors 9.52%
85 Edmonton Roofing Contractors 9.09%
86 Mississauga Bathroom Contractors 9.09%
87 Calgary General Contractors 8.89%
88 Mississauga Electricians 8.33%
89 Calgary Electricians 8.33%
90 Vancouver General Contractors 8.33%
91 Winnipeg Deck Builders 7.69%
92 Calgary Bathroom Contractors 7.50%
93 Toronto General Contractors 7.32%
94 Edmonton Basement Contractors 6.98%
95 Oshawa General Contractors 6.67%
96 Oakville Kitchen Contractors 6.67%
97 Calgary Kitchen Contractors 6.67%
98 Calgary Floor Laying Contractors 6.25%
99 Mississauga Tiling Contractors 6.25%
100 Winnipeg Basement Contractors 5.26%

Methodology

For this study, we took the total number of contractors that attempted to post fictitious reviews within a specific city, province and/or service category, and divided that number by the total number of reviewed companies in that city, province or category. For example, if City A had 300 businesses with reviews, and 100 of those businesses were believed to be generating fictitious reviews, City A would have a 33.33% probability that a contractor review is fake. Nunavut and the Northwest Territories are excluded due to insufficient data.

Posted by: TrustedPros
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