Legality of Paying for Online Reviews

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Online reviews for products, services and amenities through websites and companies draw customers and clients in for business. However, some of these organizations pay for the online reviews, which could be in the gray legal area.

The internet is plagued with paid advertising, custom announcements and paid reviews by companies seeking to broaden a customer base by showing the public a positive review of a product, service or the company itself. This has been considered ethically questionable tactics by business experts and customers seeking information about a company. However, provided the ads and analyses are not full of baseless claims, false data and untrue facts, it may be legal to pay someone or another company for a review about the products and services offered online. This means that a small fee is paid to an individual to give a shining review about something for the business.

E-commerce is a booming business, but not all reviews about services, products and the company are positive. When the customer or client is left to provide these, the variety of one to five stars could be unpredictable. It may be beneficial to hire someone to write a review that appears to be an ordinary customer that purchased something from the website. Others could be mystery shoppers, and some persons may have been in the store that were hired to write an online review about the experience in the physical building. Whichever of these individuals are hired, it is important for the company to know if having someone paid to provide these online services is legal or if it violates certain regulations.

Fake Review Facts

It is possible to face litigation over fake reviews. Even if these are paid for, the company or individual may be sued over the false information. There are many businesses that are routing out online scams, paid reviews and false claims about websites, businesses and organizations. This is more important when it affects products and services provided by a company, but some employers are jumping in with these processes by using software and other applications to discover the culprits. It is possible to lose an account due to a fake review service and persons hired independently.

One way to avoid fake reviews or the paid relationship is to offer free products to consumers. They may then draft a genuine article or comment on the website about how the product is delicious, works perfectly or similar reviews. This may be frowned upon by certain companies, but if the business does not directly request the review in exchange, it may be both legal and ethical business practices. However, if friends and family of the owner or other management in the company complete reviews online in this manner, the employee may be issued charges. While it may be impossible to discover an anonymous account is connected to such a person, per the Federal Trade Commission, this is a guideline that is required of all companies.

What to Avoid

It is neither legal to pay for online reviews after the regulations changed nor is it permitted by law to write a review by the owner, management or an employee of the company that sheds a positive light on the business. Websites may use algorithms to discover if certain feedback, reviews or comments are fake or written by someone that was paid to do so for the company. Another tactic that should be avoided is causing a negative impact to a competitor’s website through a fake or negative review. An FTC sanction could be the outcome of these actions.

The Need for an E-Commerce Lawyer

When the matter concerns e-commerce business, promotion of products or services through website referrals or reviews or similar matters, it is important to seek assistance that is relevant to these concerns. This means that the company owner and management may need to review FTC guidelines, online regulations for marketing, the e-commerce laws that affect business and similar items. Compliance is mandatory, and violations could lead to fines, criminal charges or other legal complications. This is for online reviews, paid posts and fake claims left on competitors’ websites. For these matters, it is important to contact a lawyer.

An e-commerce lawyer has the knowledge and experience in these regulations and how the online laws may affect the company. With legal representation of this type, it may be possible to either avoid legal complications or have a strong legal defense when faced with the issues in court.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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