(Testimonials) Why leaving abusive reviews on the Internet is not harmless?

(Testimonials) Why leaving abusive reviews on the Internet is not harmless?

Idyllic setting, delicious breakfast, beautiful room and charming hosts. We will come back. “Poor quality, excessive price and minimal welcome, as if we were disturbing. » Accompanied by zero to five stars, reviews have invaded the Web for around ten years and have now become commonplace. Some consumers are like serial “score givers”. With his GPS phone constantly on, Sam has gotten into the habit of responding to notifications sent by Google which tracks his movements and encourages him to evaluate the places he passes through. “Rating a restaurant is subjective. For a supermarket, I remain factual.

I like to share my experience and let people know if something is wrong, explains this young 32-year-old father. I’m not trying to complain but to explain. » Often, Internet users add photos to support their statements.

A careful reader of reviews, Sandrine only leaves a rating when there is an exceptional experience, negative or positive. “Those who make an effort on service in a restaurant, for example, deserve to know that. Conversely, when I am very disappointed, I do not hesitate to write a bad comment so that the boss can correct his mistakes,” says this 39-year-old Parisian who tries to remain “factual”.

Faced with an unpleasant situation, other consumers express their anger and frustration, sometimes with a lot of exclamation points and adjectives. “I write a negative comment if something unpleasant has affected my stay – a problem with hygiene, hot water, heating, etc. – and I find it important to tell others,” explains Apolline, a regular user of ‘Airbnb, accommodation rental site between individuals. And in the case of unsatisfactory accommodation, if the owner turns out to be unpleasant or absent subscribers, the young woman feels less remorse in posting a “nastier review”.

This sharing of experience is part of a legal framework. Whether they appear directly on the Google search engine – popular with 80% of review readers –, on online shopping sites, specialized platforms such as Tripadvisor or social networks, comments are subject to respect. of the law For a digital Republic, which came into force in 2018. The latter requires online sellers and review platforms to display the date of publication of the comment and the consumption experience, to specify the criteria for classification (at a minimum a chronological order), to indicate whether compensation has been paid, to specify whether the opinions are controlled and finally to mention the reasons for refusal of publication. Measures circumvented by actors in bad faith (read box at end of article) or by Internet users losing sight of the fact that expressing themselves online is never trivial.

Professionals are now well aware of the weight of these notes for their activity. According to an Ifop survey carried out in June 2023 for Guest Suite (a company which supports 10,000 French professionals in the management of customer reviews), “92% of French people admit to scrutinizing online reviews before selecting a company for a purchase or service” .

And if Guest Suite has collected 20 million comments in ten years of existence, 86% positive, the negative ones mark the minds of entrepreneurs, whether they are hoteliers or caregivers. “Bad reviews affect me. We communicate with colleagues to manage the emotions they arouse. We also discuss whether we react and how to respond without compromising professional secrecy,” confides Pauline Neveu, a private midwife since 2016. “Behind the negative opinions, I find patients who have not understood what is happening to them and others who do not agree with my diagnosis,” observes the practitioner, disappointed to see even the medical aspects evaluated.

An exercise that remains subjective

Assigning a grade is a subjective exercise and those who receive it are sometimes disconcerted. Considering the glowing comments on the quality of the stay, Elisa Valinejad, who runs a guest house in Charente, is always surprised to see 7/10 or 8/10: “It’s cultural, a question of education, people don’t give it 10/10 even if they are happy. »

To avoid wasting energy, Maëlyss Vultaggio, chef at Cedrat x Mama Kyuna, a bistronomic restaurant in Marseille, decided to stay away from Google notes. When she takes a look and comes across a negative comment, she reads all the comments left by the same author. “Often, I see that it is not the restaurant that is the problem, but rather the consumer who seems bitter. The Internet suits this type of people: they have no one in front of them to respond,” remarks the chef, deploring that these customers hide behind a screen to criticize her cooking rather than expressing themselves during checkout.

If the computer or the telephone seems to offer an ivory tower to fans of distributing opinions, this is not the case. “On the Internet, you can’t afford everything. Even under a pseudonym, we are able to find an individual using the IP address of their device,” underlines Olivier Gayraud. This lawyer for the consumer association CLCV (Consumption, Housing and Living Environment) points out that there is a limit that must not be crossed. “For example, it is illegal to write: ‘I have not been delivered, it’s a scam, it’s a thief.’ » When a comment contravenes the law, the company concerned has the right to remove it without risking being accused of deceptive commercial practices.

To submit a note, Olivier Gayraud insists on the importance of remaining factual. “It is prohibited to express an opinion on something that you have not tested or to submit a non-factual comment which raises serious accusations, likely to amount to a criminal offense, such as insult or defamation” , enlightens the specialist. So beware of making quick judgments. Picking up your pen at a distance from an experience will allow you to provide more reliable and honest information to your fellow human beings. Always keeping in mind, as Olivier Gayraud summarizes, that an “opinion should not aim to settle scores”.

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