Any statement representing your products or services should be true, accurate and able to be substantiated. There are fines for businesses that mislead consumers. It does not matter whether a false or misleading statement was intentional or not. While it is clearly inappropriate for review platforms to remove negative reviews simply because a reviewed business makes a complaint, review platforms should be responsive to business concerns and react swiftly if evidence suggests that a review does not reflect a genuinely held opinion.

Businesses affected by personal vendettas should notify the review platform immediately, identifying affected reviews, and providing reasons. In extreme circumstances, businesses which are the victims of ongoing harassment or serious threats through fake negative reviews may also consider contacting Police.

Whilst it is not always possible to detect every fake review, review platforms should have appropriate processes and procedures in place to detect and remove fake reviews. A best practice approach is to reactively (relying on complaints information) and proactively (using automated or manual internal systems) seek out fake reviews, including after they have been posted. There is no precise formula for identifying fake reviews. In relation to the detection of suspected fake material, reviews which may warrant attention include those:

  • which are part of a significant ‘spike’ in reviews about a particular business over a limited period of time
  • written from the same email or IP address as each other or as the business reviewed
  • written about the same business, good or service where the accounts of those who wrote reviews demonstrate abnormal similarities, e.g. similar email addresses, user names, passwords or IP addresses
  • which use overly positive or ‘marketing-speak’ writing styles
  • which do not make sense
  • which use the same exact language as other reviews of the same business or product.

Online review platforms should aim to maintain the integrity by ensuring misleading reviews are not published. The amount of effort required to be devoted by review platforms to detection and monitoring will depend on a range of circumstances, including the platform’s systems, size and whether verification of purchase is required to post a review. Businesses could adopt best practices in detection and monitoring by having easy processes for site users (consumers or businesses) to flag suspect reviews.

Do not post or publish misleading reviews

Reviews may mislead consumers where they are presented as impartial, but were in fact written by:

  • the reviewed business
  • a business competing with the reviewed business
  • a third party on behalf of one of the above (e.g. a marketing or public relations firm)
  • third persons paid to write a review when they have not used the product
  • someone who has used the good or service but who writes an inflated
  • review because they have been provided with a financial or non-financial benefit of some kind.

Resolve a problem

The repair, replace, refund problem solver helps you understand your consumer rights and the steps you can take to resolve a problem.
You have the right to a repair, replacement or refund if your goods are faulty, unsafe, do not work or appear as they should. You have the right to a repair, compensation or refund, if the services you received are not right. Which remedy, and who gets to pick, depends on the problem.

Legal advice

Consider getting independent legal advice about what options are available and suit your circumstances.
Make sure that you get legal advice first, as legal action can be expensive and there is no guarantee that you will be successful.

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Victor van der Meer

Founder & Director of My Rainbow Net Pty. Ltd.

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