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Bias in expert product reviews

Ben Vollaard and Jan van Ours ()

No 21-042/V, Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers from Tinbergen Institute

Abstract: Hard evidence on bias in expert reviews and its consequences for ratings is rare. This holds particularly true for conflicts of interest that are thought to be common in non-blind product reviews but are not readily observable: ad hoc relationships between reviewers and producers. We present a textbook case of a long-running expert product review in the food service industry for which we happen to know the reviewer's conflict of interest: being affiliated to one particular producer. As is typical, only insiders were aware of the possible source of bias in the review. The review resembles other non-blind tests of product quality. We obtained detailed data to map the consequences of the conflict of interest. We find evidence of a sizable bias in the reviewers' ratings. Our findings suggest that reviewers' ad hoc relationships with producers, often dismissed as `coming with the job', can be very harmful.

Date: 2021-05-17
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-agr and nep-mkt
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