Type of site
|Area served||North America, Europe|
|Founder(s)||Peter Holten Mühlmann|
|Key people||Peter Mühlmann (CEO)|
Hanno Damm (CFO)
|Alexa rank||411 (January 2020)|
Trustpilot.com is a Danish consumer review website founded in Denmark in 2007 which hosts reviews of businesses worldwide. Nearly 1 million new reviews are posted each month. The site offers freemium services to businesses. The firm relies on users, software and compliance team to report and remove reviews from the platform that violate Trustpilot’s content guidelines. Trustpilot has offices in New York, Denver, London, Copenhagen, Vilnius, Berlin and Melbourne, and employs more than 700 people. There are independent investigations that suggest that review websites such as Trustpilot may have fake reviews.
Trustpilot was founded by the company’s current CEO, Peter Holten Mühlmann, in Denmark in 2007. He started the company when his parents started shopping online. At the time, he was studying at Aarhus University, School of Business and Social Sciences and would later leave university to pursue Trustpilot.
After raising $3 million in early venture funding from 2008 to 2010, Trustpilot received an initial capital injection from SEED Capital Denmark and Northzone in November 2011. One year later, Index Ventures, SEED Capital Denmark and Northzone invested $13 million in Series B funding in Trustpilot, which the company used for international growth.
In 2013, Trustpilot opened offices in New York and London. In the same year, the company was named Danish Startup of the Year at Next Web’s European Startup Awards. In 2014, Draper Esprit (formerly known as DFJ Esprit) invested $25 million in Trustpilot, along with support from the existing investors. According to VentureBeat, the Series C funding round would help Trustpilot “bring its online retail reviews service to the U.S.” At the end of 2014, Trustpilot employed 325 people and 400,000 new reviews were posted each month. According to Website Magazine, “Trustpilot soared in 2014,” and experienced “record growth with an 80 percent year-over-year increase in revenue.
In May 2015, Trustpilot received $73.5 million in Series D funding. The investment was led by Vitruvian Partners, with contributions from all existing investors. In March, 2015, Google announced it was launching product ratings in Germany, the UK and France. In order to do this, “Google is aggregating data in Europe from different sources” including third party aggregators like Trustpilot. Trustpilot has a licensing agreement with Google, allowing Trustpilot reviews to be listed as Google Seller Ratings, or “Google Stars.” Trustpilot employs about 700 people and roughly 1,000,000 new reviews are posted each month. Trustpilot has published 50 million reviews about more than 228,000 brands 
Anyone can post a review on Trustpilot. User account creation requires an email address or Facebook account. Trustpilot lets businesses collect and respond to reviews for free and offers specialized marketing and analytics features in their paid plans. Trustpilot generates income from subscribing companies who use its software to be reviewed by customers and gain business acumen from reviews.
Trustpilot operates a freemium business model and earns majority of its revenue from companies that subscribe to its services. According to its annual report, Trustpilot’s revenue has grown an average 39% year on year since 2014.
There are independent investigations that suggest that review websites such as Trustpilot may have fake reviews.There is controversy about the legitimacy of some of Trustpilot’s and other consumer review websites’ reviews and the way that it deals with complaints about them, although Trustpilot insists that it strives to only include genuine reviews. The firm allows businesses to selectively display reviews about them, which may violate certain laws or regulations. Trustpilot featured fake reviews for Bizzyloans, Trustpilot deleted them after they were brought to light by KwikChex, an online investigations company. Fake reviewers often steal the identities of real people to falsely build up reviewed companies’ reputations. Trustpilot denies that it permits any known fraudulent reviews on its site.
On 14 September 2017, Trustpilot issued an open letter clarifying its review policy following allegations concerning the ‘validity of reviews of online estate agent, Purplebricks, by customers’.
Trustpilot reserves the right to remove reviews without any notice according to their policy. It insists that it always makes a bona fide effort to obey the law and its published policies to ensure that only authentic reviews remain on the website.
Companies are allowed to publicly respond to reviews, or report a review if they believe that it violates Trustpilot’s user guidelines or they have no record of the reviewer as a customer. When a company reports a review, it is automatically replaced with a message indicating that it is being assessed. If the reviewer does not supply the requested information (e.g. proof of purchase) within seven days, the review is removed.
Proof of purchase is not automatically required to post a new review so there is little incentive for a company to report positive reviews. Given the company will prefer to report negative reviews, this has the potential to skew reviews in favour of the company.
Hiding Negative Reviews
Users of Trustpilot’s Facebook plugin (for their Pro subscribers, paying $599 per month) have the option to display only reviews giving a certain score: “Choose the number of reviews that you want to display from the drop-down menu, then select the rating that the displayed reviews will have” . This ensures the Facebook end-user does not see any negative reviews in the plug-in. Since the plug-in does not reveal that the reviews displayed are an unrepresentative sample, this feature means Pro subscriber can create a better impression than subscribers to Trustpilot’s free products, which do not have this censorship facility.
Paying Trustpilot subscribers using the “Trustbox” feature (which allows a website to show embedded Trustpilot reviews) can ensure only reviews with a minimum star rating will be displayed: there is a setting that “Displays the star ratings that you select, for example, all 3-, 4-, and 5-star reviews”.
While Trustpilot concedes “[by using Trustboxes] you don’t show consumers the full, accurate picture of all your customers’ opinions”, the Trustbox itself does not reveal that the review selection is filtered, hence may mislead some consumers (those who are not familiar with Trustpilot’s Trustbox integration documentation) into believing a company only attracts positive reviews.
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