Fake online reviews and unlabelled endorsements: don't get burnt

Fake online reviews and unlabelled endorsements: don't get burnt

What is the legal position around fake online reviews and unlabelled endorsements?

We spoke with Miranda De Savorgnani of Outer Temple Chambers about this area of law. Although many businesses simply choose to put these sorts of shenanigans down to 'sharp' business practice, they are putting themselves at great risk if they do so.

In particular, she comments on the recent report, 'Online reviews and endorsements', from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and what it means for businesses.

https://twitter.com/CMAgovUK/status/613277022136217600

What are the take home points from the report which businesses should be aware of to ensure their compliance with the law?

In this report, the CMA has set out its expectations as to how businesses and review sites will ensure they are in compliance with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) when they engage in any commercial practice directly connected with the promotion, sale or supply of goods and service. In particular, businesses (and anyone acting on their behalf) should:

  • not offer inducements to customers in return for writing positive reviews about their businesses on review sites
  • not pretend to be a consumer and write fake reviews about their own or other businesses' goods and services, and
  • ensure that advertising and paid promotions are clearly identifiable to readers/viewers as paid-for content (whether the payment is financial or otherwise)

https://twitter.com/CMAgovUK/status/612900282784157697

In addition, review sites (meaning any website that hosts customer reviews) should:

  • be clear about how reviews are obtained and checked
  • publish all reviews, even negative ones, provided they are genuine and lawful, and explain the circumstances in which reviews might not be published or might be edited
  • make sure there is not an unreasonable delay before reviews are published
  • disclose commercial relationships with the businesses that appear on their site, and explain how this may affect the businesses' ratings and/or their ranking
  • clearly identify all advertising and paid promotions, including when reviews have been paid for, and
  • have appropriate procedures in place to detect and remove fake reviews and act promptly in response to reports of suspected fake reviews

Are there practical suggestions for how clients can avoid fake reviews being printed on their sites and guarantee the transparency of the content which appears on its online blogs and articles?

The CMA identified a number of practical approaches used by reputable review sites to help mitigate the impact of fake reviews. Review sites may:

  • give their users the means to self-police reviews (eg to allow users to mark a review as suspicious or as helpful or let users see how frequently a reviewer has submitted review

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