Left unchecked, fake reviews pose a material threat to companies facilitating the sharing economy. Here’s how one is fighting back.

From transportation to accommodation, the sharing economy has brought -and experienced- considerable change in the past few years. And it’s still in its infancy. Customers and companies are just beginning to explore the potential.

Fraudsters are, too.

Take Rated People in the United Kingdom. On their platform, homeowners post jobs - from plumbing and gardening to loft extensions and full renovations - and tradespeople pay a subscription fee plus a small cost to quote for each job. In 2016, Rated People hosted more than 1 million jobs, with a job value of £2 billion in its market.

Among those impressive numbers, a small minority of users have taken advantage of the community.

For example, someone outside the UK whom we’ll call “André” (his investigation is ongoing) has preyed on homeowners and tradespeople alike. André wins homeowners’ jobs, takes their deposits, and sends local workers out to begin. Then André vanishes, leaving the two parties to discover they’ve been cheated and, too often, lay the blame on Rated People.

“Whether it’s catching a cab, maintaining a home or staying in one, services in the sharing economy depend on trust. One user trusts that another will do or behave as they promise,” says Tim Roe, Chief Customer Officer at Rated People. “Meanwhile, consumers expect much more than they would of a friend’s recommendation or The Yellow Pages. When that trust is abused, customers want accountability and support. The perception is that it’s the platform’s responsibility. So, if something goes wrong, the platform’s reputation suffers, users lose trust, and go elsewhere.”

After conducting a study for the European Commission, PWC concluded: “The biggest challenge for sharing economy organisations if this space is to fully mature: how can they build trust between individuals who may never have met each other before and where the mood music surrounding these services has not been wholly positive? To make progress, sharing economy enterprises will need to collaborate with their stakeholders across a number of fronts. We think this will include investing in market-leading reputational scoring systems…”

Now that Rated People has had success with iovation keeping fraudsters out, the platform plans to use device recognition technology to preserve the integrity of its users’ reputations, and cultivate trust among its community.

Currently, once a tradesperson completes a job, the homeowner can choose to leave a review about the professional on Rated People. These reviews provide other homeowners with a priceless source of genuine information about the tradespeople they may be considering.

With iovation in place, Rated People will be able to ensure with greater certainty that the person who posts a job is the same person who pays for it, and then leaves a review.

Rated People will also have more tools to detect and stop tradespeople who abuse the platform, but stop short of committing fraud.

“We've observed in small areas that competitors will post fake jobs to try and drive their competitors off the site. Then, these dishonest users have their pick of all of the jobs in the area,” says Roe. “That damages our reputation and our ability to give our users the best possible experience. iovation will become a key tool in helping us police our job boards.”

Read the Rated People case study, and discover how they’re working to protect their corner of the sharing economy.