The role of the conducting glass substrate (fluorine-doped tin oxide, FTO) in the back reaction of electrons with tri-iodide ions in dye-sensitized nanocrystalline solar cells (DSCs) has been investigated using thin-layer electrochemical cells that are analogues of the DSCs. The rate of back reaction is dependent on the type of FTO and the thermal treatment. The results show that this back-reaction route cannot be neglected in DSCs, particularly at lower light intensities, where it is the dominant route for the back transfer of electrons to tri-iodide. This conclusion is confirmed by measurements of the intensity dependence of the photovoltages of DSCs with and without blocking layers. It follows that blocking layers should be used to prevent the back reaction in mechanistic studies in which the light intensity is varied over a wide range. Conclusions based on studies of the intensity dependence of the parameters of DSCs such as photovoltage and electron lifetime in cells without blocking layers, must be critically re-examined.