Online care review sites have committed to improvements that will give people a more complete picture when making buying decisions.
After engaging constructively with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), websites including carehome.co.uk, Care Opinion and Most Recommended Care, have all agreed to tidy up their practices. These improvements address concerns that were raised following a call for information by the CMA on online reviews and endorsements.
A cross comparison with the Care Quality Commission suggests that ‘award’ winning care providers had in many cases received rather more negative inspection results. It makes absolute sense that when people are searching for care; they are able to see transparent results just as they would if choosing a car.
Mark Sadler Founder of yourcarehome.co.uk and Hootvox.com commented;
“It’s a real shame for the industry because consumers need to be able to trust examples of good care when they see them. Choosing a care home for a vulnerable loved one is a heart wrenching thing to do, and you need trusted reviews from trusted sites.
“I suggest that you look very carefully at how reviews are gathered and how stars and ratings are calculated, you cannot take anything on face value.
“Look also at who funds the website or who provides the review service and take a good look at their website to see how trustworthy it is”
Andrew Mabbutt, CEO of the feedback platform Feefo, remarked: ‘While improving practises is always a good step, unless reviews are collected by a trusted, independent third party, there is always the danger that they cannot be trusted.’
Feefo provide a closed feedback system for both online and offline businesses. They invite only verified customers to leave their feedback, and ensure that they are unmoderated. This rules out any possibility of fakes, or sweeping negative reviews under the rug.
Mr. Mabbutt explained why this independent, closed feedback system, benefits both care homes and potential residents: “Care homes need to know what they’re doing right, and what they can improve on, and family members need to know that their loved one will be properly looked after. With many fantastic care homes being tarred with a bad brush due to the malpractice of others, we want to be the difference and help those care homes with good reputations stand out.’
The CMA’s call for information highlighted a number of general concerns about the review sector, including the potential for some review websites’ practices to prevent some genuine negative reviews from being published, some review websites not checking reviews sufficiently at all, and important information relating to poor CQC inspection results not being brought to the attention of the users of some websites.
The operators of the review sites have worked with the CMA in relation to their practices. Each of them has committed to making bespoke improvements in response to the specific concerns that were relevant to them in one or more of the following areas:
- Ensuring that all genuine, relevant and lawful reviews are published. In order to mitigate their legal risk, Carehome.co.uk and Care Opinion had previously given care homes the option to restrict the publication of reviews, instead publishing a prominent message indicating that a review had been withheld. They have now agreed not to offer care homes an automatic right to restrict.
- Ensuring that reviews received are checked properly as to whether they are genuine. Most Recommended Care will build on their existing verification processes to strengthen their checks.
- Ensuring that important information is brought to the attention of users. Most Recommended Care will improve the information that is given to users about how reviews are collected, checked and published, building on their existing practices. Most Recommended Care will also ensure that its commercial relationships with businesses are prominently disclosed.
Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, Consumer, said:
“Millions of people look at online reviews and endorsements before making buying decisions, and so it is crucial that review websites check and present reviews in a way that ensures consumers can trust them.
“Review sites play a critical role in giving consumers this valuable information and ensuring that consumers can trust the reviews they see. We welcome the constructive engagement we have had with the 5 review sites which will mean that people using them will have a more complete picture when reading reviews. These changes should help people to make the right choices when hiring a tradesperson or making a vital decision on the care of a loved one.
“The CMA’s action is part of a wider package of work aimed at improving practices in the online reviews and endorsements sector. As well as writing to the operators of other care home sites, we are issuing further advice and information to review sites across all sectors to remind them about their legal obligations. In addition, we have opened investigations into a number of companies involved in reviews and endorsements, and expect to make further announcements about these in the coming weeks.
Mark Sadler continued:
“Every customer should be asked for their feedback, not only selected customers.
“Only confirmed customers should be able to leave feedback about a business, not anyone that may simply have an axe to grind or be a friend of the business owner.
“Open review sites should generally be ignored because only people with extremes of opinion bother to seek them out to leave their feedback.
“It should not be possible to remove or even to hide a bad review by pushing it further down the list.
“Lastly – Always look for bad reviews, they go some way to prove the authenticity of the good ones. If it’s not Reevoo, Feefo, Reviews, or Hootvox, then keep your wits about you.”
Care Industry News comments;
“It goes without saying that choosing a care home or home care is a difficult decision. To discover after moving a relative into a care home, that the point of reference was simply an advert and not a fair description of the care delivered can only further diminish the publics opinion on care-surely?