All websites that publish reviews should follow the law and provide consumers with a full and candid picture. So, what are the legal consequences of writing false online reviews?
FAKE REVIEWS: Customers buy and have experience with products and services. They often provide a genuine assessment of its usefulness.
Creating realistic consumer reviews provides a valuable type of customer feedback. But, reviewing online can have a positive or negative result.
Appraisals and opinions fulfill an important role for potential customers. Positive feedback can help purchasers decide whether to buy a particular product or service - or not!
In fact, writing a fake online review is not difficult to achieve in practice. In recent years, online review websites have become a fast growing industry.
Some will hire online reputation management companies instead. They specialise in helping businesses repair the harm caused by negative online reviews.
But, fake negative reviews can damage a brand or an image. They also weaken consumer trust in online reviews and in review sites. Even worse, commissioning or creating fake reviews can result in civil or criminal action.
So, are fake reviews illegal in UK? The Competition and Markets Authority already tested the legalities. The CMA took action against an online marketing company caught posting fake business reviews on behalf of its clients.
As a business, there are several practices you must follow if your products are being reviewed:
As a marketing, public relations (PR), or SEO agency working on behalf of another organisation, you should:
Note: Research suggests more than half of adults in the UK will use some form of online reviews. Misleading consumers through reviews that you write or commission may be breaking the law in United Kingdom.
Further guidance is available to help traders comply with the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs).
The amount of fake online reviews continues to grow. Research also shows that actual business owners write a high proportion of them. Often, it is an act of despair after falling victim to fake online reviews themselves.
The practice of writing fake reviews (also called 'astroturfing') is illegal in the United Kingdom. The law falls under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The directive prohibits unfair commercial practices in Britain.
So how does writing fake online reviews meet the definition of unfair commercial practices? In fact, it contravenes good professional practice. So, it is likely to distort the economic behaviour displayed by the average consumer.
Retailers who distort online reviews would be in breach of the CPUTR rules. In most cases, they would also break the laws on advertising codes.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) or Trading Standards can bring about prosecution for breaches of Unfair Trading Regulations. That said, the risk of getting caught out remains quite low.
Are Fake Reviews Illegal in the United Kingdom?