Are the reviews genuine?

Online Reviews

Many review sites allow anyone to leave a review, as long as they have an email address. There are many stories of businesses suffering enormous damage to their reputation from fake reviews submitted by competitors. Referenceline's system is designed to prevent this.

Protecting Businesses

We ask consumers to fill out an online form with their name and email address, which we send to the business. The business makes sure that this is a genuine customer and sends them an email reply, containing a link to the feedback form.

Protecting Consumers

Our formal process is set out above, but in practice we can often resolve matters with a single phonecall. So send us an email with your details, we will call the business and usually either they or we will send you the email link straight back.

Freepost Reviews

The overwhelming majority of reviews are sent to us on forms which we provide to the businesses. These are handed out to customers and returned by them to our freepost address.

These reviews are uploaded daily to the website and we publish the original handwritten comments, to show that they have not been edited. We also enter the text of the review, as the handwritten comments can sometimes be hard to read.

Customers must include their name, address and phone number or email address so that we can contact them. We contact a small sample of customers to discuss their review and, where possible, to verify that this is a genuine customer.


Yes, we think they probably do, provided you look at businesses with an established track record of recent reviews over a period of 9 months or more. Let's look at the four areas of risk to see why:

Missing complaints

We guarantee that Referenceline never hides complaints. If a business uses Referenceline in its marketing, then their customers know they can leave a review with us. There is some risk that a business might intimidate a customer into not submitting a negative review, but we believe that there is a much greater likelihood of the customer persuading the business to do more work or offer a discount in exchange for the customer agreeing not to complain. Up to a point, this is a good thing, and it's a modern version of the old adage that "the customer's always right".

Fake complaints

Our system prevents competitors from leaving a review, but we always accept reviews from customers and sometimes these can be fake. We have experienced a handful of cases where consumers have left an exaggerated or false review on our website with the intention either to extort money from a business or to destroy its reputation. In this handful of cases, we have suspended the review while it is considered by Trading Standards and/or the Courts. We have then published the essence of the complaint, together with the Courts decision, but we exclude the ratings of that review from the total for that business. In this way, the review is there for all to see, but the business reputation is preserved intact.

Missing recommendations

This is probably the greatest risk and frustration of all to businesses, and yet it hardly ever gets a mention in debates about review sites. Most of us can't be bothered to submit a review. We're busy. We forget. We can't be bothered. So the biggest missing part is probably reviews from people who were happy enough with the service, but not motivated to say so. We regularly hear from businesses who contact us to ask why we haven't published the review from a particular customer who had promised to send it in and the sad answer is that we never received it. That's why Referenceline provides freepost forms which can be left behind with customers to complete and return to us whenever convenient. This is especially helpful to reach out to those who don't make much use of computers - including many tradesmen!!

Fake recommendations

As explained above, both Referenceline and our Trading Standards partners carry out spot checks on reviews. We email or speak to clients. We email or speak to the business. Very occasionally we identify a problem. Most of the time, we are satisfied. So what does this tell us? That nobody dares submit a fake review? That businesses are clever at submitting reviews via friends and relatives who pretend to be customers? It's hard to say. But once a business has an established reputation, then why take the risk of being discovered and banned from our site?


We believe that Referenceline's reviews are likely to give a better picture of a business than most other sources, because of the detailed information we provide. But if your decision to choose a business is influenced by one or more particular reviews, then please get in touch with the business and ask them to give you more information about them. If necessary, ask the business if they will put you in touch with the customer, provided they agree. If you are not convinced by their answers then trust your instinct, walk away, and please tell us too.