The Federal Trade Commission proposed a new rule to stop marketers from using illicit review and endorsement practices such as using fake reviews, suppressing honest negative reviews, and paying for positive reviews, which deceive consumers looking for real feedback on a product or service and undercut honest businesses.
“Our proposed rule on fake reviews shows that we’re using all available means to attack deceptive advertising in the digital age,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The rule would trigger civil penalties for violators and should help level the playing field for honest companies.”
The Commission is seeking comments on proposed measures that would fight these clearly deceptive practices. For example, the proposed rule would prohibit:
- Selling or Obtaining Fake Consumer Reviews and Testimonials: The proposed rule would prohibit businesses from writing or selling consumer reviews or testimonials by someone who does not exist, who did not have experience with the product or service, or who misrepresented their experiences. It also would prohibit businesses from procuring such reviews or disseminating such testimonials if the businesses knew or should have known that they were fake or false.
- Review Hijacking: Businesses would be prohibited from using or repurposing a consumer review written for one product so that it appears to have been written for a substantially different product. The FTC recently brought its first review hijacking enforcement action.
- Buying Positive or Negative Reviews: Businesses would be prohibited from providing compensation or other incentives conditioned on the writing of consumer reviews expressing a particular sentiment, either positive or negative.
- Insider Reviews and Consumer Testimonials: The proposed rule would prohibit a company’s officers and managers from writing reviews or testimonials of its products or services, without clearly disclosing their relationships. It also would prohibit businesses from disseminating testimonials by insiders without clear disclosures of their relationships, and it would prohibit certain solicitations by officers or managers of reviews from company employees or their relatives, depending on whether the businesses knew or should have known of these relationships.
- Company Controlled Review Websites: Businesses would be prohibited from creating or controlling a website that claims to provide independent opinions about a category of products or services that includes its own products or services.
- Illegal Review Suppression: Businesses would be prohibited from using unjustified legal threats, other intimidation, or false accusations to prevent or remove a negative consumer review. The proposed rule also would bar a business from misrepresenting that the reviews on its website represent all reviews submitted when negative reviews have been suppressed.
- Selling Fake Social Media Indicators: Businesses would be prohibited from selling false indicators of social media influence, like fake followers or views. The proposed rule also would bar anyone from buying such indicators to misrepresent their importance for a commercial purpose.
Fake reviews are ruining the web. But there’s some new hope to fight them.
The Federal Trade Commission on Friday proposed new rules to take aim at businesses that buy, sell and manipulate online reviews. If the rules are approved, they’ll carry a big stick: a fine of up to $50,000 for each fake review, for each time a consumer sees it.
That could add up fast.
It’s the biggest step to date by the federal government to deter the insidious market for buying and selling fake reviews, though the FTC’s rules don’t do as much to hold big review sites like Yelp, Google, Tripadvisor and Amazon directly accountable. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Interim chief executive Patty Stonesifer sits on Amazon’s board.)
You’ve seen it before: Thousands of conspicuous five-star reviews for a borderline product. Perhaps even a merchant has offered to pay you to leave a positive review. This kind of fraud undermines our collective power as consumers.
What the FTC’s fake-review rules do
The FTC’s view is that fake reviews have always been against the law because they mislead consumers. But its proposed rules, which are open for two months of comment before they could be codified, would draw some bright red lines that clarify who’s responsible — and empower the FTC to take more action.
So what’s against the rules? No-gos include reviews that misrepresent someone’s experience with a product and that claim to be written by someone who doesn’t exist. Reviews also can’t be written by insiders like company employees without clear disclosures.
The rules apply not only to the people who write fake reviews but also to the middlemen who procure them and the companies who pay for them and know — or should have known — they were fake.
And most of all, review platforms and retailers such as Yelp, Google and Amazon have the ultimate control over what they publish on their sites, as well as the most information about who’s leaving the reviews. These big companies decide which reviews they leave up, what kind of proof they require to leave one — and also profit from having them.
This is just step 1.
Step 2 will be the shutdown of all the fake reviews websites like Gripeo, where someone can write a negative review, maybe your business enemy. Gripeo fixes it with their SEO technique done by Vikram Parmar to give more visibility and damage your reputation.
And after asking for money to remove it, in a clear extortionist way!