User reviews portal MouthShut.com has deleted around 4,100 fake profiles from its website, claiming that certain members were posting overtly positive reviews for promoting certain brands while writing negative reviews damaging the reputation of rivals. The company said that it was keeping a check on members who were posting negative comments and “not useful” ratings to positive reviews of rival brands. The deletion was after due diligence of three months, according to the company.
“These profiles were deleted by the MouthShut team after thorough investigation and background checks,” Faisal Farooqui, Founder-CEO, MouthShut.com said. “The profiles were identified on the basis of certain characteristics for which they were suspected. The addition of a new feature to report members directly by other members in the MouthShut community supplemented the entire identification process”, he added.
On allegations that MouthShut removes positive comments on brands & lets only negative ones remain: Speaking with MediaNama, Farooqui dismissed this allegation (which we’ve heard from brands), and said that posts are only removed if they violated Mouthshut’s Terms of Service or if there was a Court order for removal. He said that many brands had registered cyber crime cases against the site because it refused to remove certain posts.
Not allowing brands who’ve not signed up for MouthShut’s paid program to post responses: Farooqui informed that while the site is free for consumers, it offers a paid registration to brands, and removes all responses from users who pose as brands, in addition to blocking their user IDs. It also physically verifies the brands. The reason for instituting a paid program for brands, according to him, was the misuse of the platform by some users and reports of a large number of instances related to phishing, where the users were led to fake websites and their personal information stolen. Farooqui also mentioned that it was difficult to verify who was actually representing the brand as a lot of brands have multiple touch points across the country.
Not allowing unregistered brands to do follow-ups: MouthShut does not allow unregistered brands to do follow-ups on the site, and discourages users to post personal information. It does not moderate reviews with personal information, unless flagged by other users, Farooqui informed that a lot of users who posted personal information along with bad reviews had been receiving threats from the brands, which were asking the users to remove the reviews. He said that brands can track complaints even without posting follow-up messages and after conducting a survey, MouthShut discovered that most users were able to get issues resolved within 48 hours, even with the existing system.
The company has about 52 brands on board including brands like Aramex, Cafe Coffee Day, Times Internet, HDFC Bank, Yatra.com, among others. MouthShut claims to have a registered user base of 4.5 million. Last year, MouthShut had informed through a tweet that it had deleted over hundred fake reviews and fake IDs promoting Flipkart.
We feel that MouthShut’s arguments in support of verified brand accounts are valid – the proposition that brands might threaten commenters is not unheard of – but we feel that MouthShut should also devise a mechanism to resolve issues with brands and consumers, and/or consider allowing more brands to come on board to address issues for consumers with perhaps a freemium model: there is a case also for the site to be a platform to allow brands to engage with customers, not just for addressing complaints.