Why Writing Fake Good Reviews to Boost Your Business May Be Illegal

National studies have found that many consumers check online reviews before making a purchase. Additionally, many consumers directly cite such reviews for the reason why they chose a particular product. Hoping to tap into the upside of this strategy, some businesses encourage consumers to post positive reviews.

However, some businesses take it a step further by having consumers post fake online reviews or paying bloggers to complete this work for them. In some instances, such posts may be illegal.

The Issue

Most sites provide access to anyone with Internet access to write a review about a product or service. These sites generally do not require the user to prove that he or she has actually purchased the product. Therefore, many businesses take advantage of this situation by getting glowing recommendations for their product that have simply been injected into the bottom of the site’s page.

Reasoning for Fake Reviews

Businesses may implant fake reviews in order to influence consumers to purchase their products. They may highlight the benefits of their own product or criticize the competition’s product or service. Additionally, many search engine optimization processes will rank businesses higher when they have more positive reviews. Additionally, posting more positive reviews can help offset negative reviews and slant the star or numeric rating of the product or service.

A more malevolent reason for fake reviews is to degrade the competitor. By posing as a former customer of a competitor, the review may appear more credible than any negative statements made by the company itself.

Applicable Laws

Issues regarding fake reviews are primarily handled at the state level with the application of state statutes or common law. State attorney generals or individuals in a similar position may help spearhead campaigns against companies that the attorney general suspects is using fake online reviews. False advertising claims may arise if the company’s conduct meets the elements of the tort in the applicable jurisdiction.

Another state tort that may apply is when the fake review is being used to disparage the products or services of a competitor. Defamation suits may arise in this context. On the federal level, the FTC is responsible for governing these issues. For companies that do business in other countries, the FTC or similar governmental entity may govern such conduct. The FTC may have the power to impose substantial fines if a business is caught violating applicable laws, rules or regulations.

Attorney Statements

In addition to other relevant state laws, attorney advertisements are often governed by the applicable Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorney advertisements may have to include certain disclaimers regarding their services and the content in the advertisement.

Spotting Fake Reviews

Consumers may be able to avoid using a product or service based on a fake review by being able to separate real consumer reviews from fake ones. One way to discern this information is by seeing if there is anything negative in the review about the product in question. Legitimate reviews will tend to weigh the pros and cons and not be simply a glowing endorsement of the product. Another possible indication of a fake review is the length of the review. Most people will not want to write a novel about a product even if they do love it. Additionally, freelance writers are often paid by the word, so if there is a consistent word count for many of the reviews, they may be fake.

Consumers should also look at the details of the review, including the reviewer’s profile and the date of the review. Reviews that were all written about the same time are suspect. Likewise, a series of reviews after a negative review should also raise a red flag. Many sites allow consumers to click on the reviewer’s profile to see how many reviews they have written and to link to these other reviews.

Company Steps

Companies that do not wish to be associated with fake reviews can take proactive steps to distance themselves from such tactics. If they suspect that a review is fake, they can report the review to the site that is featuring the review by clicking on the “flag” or “report” icon. Even if the company decides not to delete the review, the record will have been made that the business contested its validity. Additionally, the company can contact the review site directly to ask for its assistance in removing suspected reviews. Additionally, companies may wish to talk to a lawyer experienced in this area of the law to learn about their rights and responsibilities.

Provided by HG.org

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and.how they may affect a case.

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