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Auto Transport 123

Compensated five-star reviews draw the attention of the FTC.

Unlike the stars we earned as elementary school students when the teacher recognized our brilliance by placing yellow stickers next to our names, not all of the high-star ratings you see online are solely the result of good behavior. Some companies pay for them.

Auto Transport 123, which boasts on its homepage that it’s received more than 5,000 five-star reviews, is one of those companies. Recently, the FTC looked into whether the vehicle transportation service “adequately disclosed that the company offered consumer incentives in exchange for five star reviews.” Such a disclosure is important when one considers that nearly 90 percent of consumers say they require that a business have a three- to five-star rating before they will use the business.

Following an inquiry, the agency decided not to take or recommend enforcement action. A green emblem in the top right-hand corner of incentivized five-star reviews now indicates the author’s material connection to the company as a “compensated reviewer.”

But perhaps more revealing than the five stars of a compensated review are the attendant summaries of a customer’s actual experience with the company, some elements of which aren’t particularly glowing despite the high-star rating:

Paul the driver was very prompt and professional, however there was a miscommunication with drop off location, service was paid for door to door, once vehicle got to destination recipient had to drive a few miles to meet up with transport company and it was a hazardous road.

Another compensated reviewer rated the service five stars overall, even though they rated “honesty,” “promptness,” and “customer service” three stars out of five.

Auto Transport 123 has a disclaimer on the bottom of their review page which states, “Visitors should not solely base their choice on these reviews.” No kidding.

Find more of our coverage on online reviews here.

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