Trustpilot: Why its system is wrong

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a LinkedIn post entitled "Did Purplebricks Just Kill Trustpilot?" It got quite a bit of attention, not least from Trustpilot itself. Within 24 hours their representative had emailed me and within 48 had had a long telephone conversation with me - plus a follow-up email - requesting that I change some minor points in my post which were slightly incorrect. I did and - as you can see at the bottom - I explained what I had changed and why.

You might think that's pretty reasonable - inside 24 hours' contact to correct some mild factual errors and 48 to confirm the request, with an immediate correction.

Consider, then, what consternation there must be right now at Trustpilot Towers over Purplebricks' "error" in reporting its USA business - on PB's own, heavily-advertised homepage no less - as a Trustpilot 5-star company. Because it's not. 

Trustpilot knows that, from its own Purplebricks USA review page. Purplebricks knows that too, because it was PB themselves - according to Trustpilot - that flagged the UK 5-star reviews as having been incorrectly sent and requested they be taken down from TP.

This is three weeks since Purplebricks USA launched. They have never had the combination of verified 5-star US reviews that would give them even passing air-cover to display a total of 5-stars on their homepage, because the first verified one was - guess what? - a 1-star review

So what is Trustpilot doing to fix this? Have they got their representative on constant email and calls with Purplebricks to get that false 5-star claim removed? Section 5 of its own Terms and Conditions are being rather blatantly flouted, yet they seem powerless to stop this misrepresentation of their rating.

Purplebricks USA - inadvertently, according to a Trustpilot release that we must take at face value - showed that it was possible to cheat Trustpilot's system to garner undue 5-star reviews for your business and still be shown on Trustpilot as headline "Excellent. 5-star". Purplebricks USA have now spent weeks advertising themselves as a 5-star service on their homepage, with Trustpilot's logo giving unearned reassurance to the thousands and thousands of unsuspecting visitors - from their multi-million dollar Stateside advertising campaign - that this is true.

But it's not. And until Trustpilot get that icon and 5-star score removed, there must be questions about its ability - or willingness - to hold its paying advertisers to account, in the same way that it does high-growth business consultants writing broadly-accurate articles on LinkedIn.

Trustpilot's system is wrong. They need to change it so that stars do not accrue when reviews are under investigation, because they can be misused whether by accident or on purpose. If they do not, I think that people will increasingly distrust their star ratings, until such time as they cease to be in any way useful to consumers - or advertisers.