CECNA Learning Center

Product Review Sites

Review

Product review sites are a relatively new phenomenon. Like so much else, they’re a creation of the internet, which made it possible for people in all parts of the world to chime in and share their opinions of the goods and services they purchased. 

But human nature being what it is, many sites suffer from a lack of credibility. They are too often completely unmoderated or, even worse, manipulated to make sponsors and underwriters look good. There is also a vast community of “influencers,” which in another time would have been called shills.

While some review sites are better than others, it’s local businesses that are often the biggest offenders at trying to control what their customers say. The Federal Trade Commission has rules against intimidating customers or restricting what they can say about the service they received.

“If you have a signed form contract that restricts you from sharing reviews or penalizes you for doing that, the business may not be able to enforce those restrictions,” the agency advises.

In January 2022, the FTC put some teeth into it and fined Fashion Nova $4.2 million for blocking negative reviews on its site.

Best Review Sites

Here, in our estimation, are a few of the best review sites, offering useful, accurate and relatively unbiased information.

Consumer Reports

With more than 6 million members, Consumer Reports’ non-profit parent organization is the grandparent of consumer reviews. Founded in 1936, it provides unbiased, evidence-based reviews of everything from cars to vacuum cleaners. Digital membership is $10 per month. 

Consumer Reports surveys millions of consumers every year to learn which products and vehicles work the best and last the longest.

Trusted Source

CR has over 140 scientists, researchers, and technicians working in 63 labs and a 327-acre auto test center.

Consumer Affairs

ConsumerAffairs has been providing product reviews and consumer news and safety recall information since 1998. It has an accreditation program that enables companies to engage directly with consumers who file reviews or comments about their products. The site is free. It does not have advertising but is compensated for certain clicks and inquiries. 

Its site includes buyers guides that help consumers make informed choices about major purchases, including home warranties, mortgages, solar power, personal finance and moving.

It has a staff of several hundred consumer advisors, data scientists and analysts, most working remotely from the United States and elsewhere.

Wirecutter​

No, it’s not a guide to getting rid of your cable TV service. Though perhaps oddly named, Wirecutter brings the clout and credibility of The New York Times to product reviews despite a certain gee-whiz atmosphere that wears a bit thin after awhile. The ad-free site goes out of its way to explain the rationale for each recommendation. It gets paid when readers click on certain links.

It claims to have “over 1,000 up-to-date, independent reviews.”

Subscribe for $40 per year for unlimited access.

Yelp

Everybody knows about Yelp, right? It’s the king of the local review sites. Anything from barber shops to plastic surgeons is fair game for Yelpers. 

It’s something of a free-for-all but the sheer quantity of information makes it worth checking for just about any purchase. It’s free, but with lots of ads and paid listings.

Yelp has taken a strong stance against phony and compensated reviews and urged other social media to do the same.

“In the U.S., fake reviews are a form of false or deceptive advertising and can be prosecuted as such,” Yelp said in a recent statement.

Amazon​

Amazon a review site? Yes and in fact, it’s probably the biggest and most influential review site anywhere.

Millions of consumers leave reviews of products they purchased on the site and, although there is always room for skullduggery, most appear to be legitimate and can be extremely helpful in making a buying decision. 

Like Yelp, Amazon has been aggressive in going after fake and compensated reviews, bringing legal action against some violators.

The reviews are free but, of course, there’s always the danger you’ll buy something while perusing the site. .