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Are fake reviews really illegal?

You’re shopping online; you find just the right product at the right price, and you’re tipped into parting with your hard-earned cash by a host of rave reviews. We’ve all been there, but how can you know for sure if these reviews are real or fake?

People can find a way to make a quick buck out of anything, and it only takes a quick Google search to find people selling fake, positive reviews to be left on open platforms such as Trustpilot and TripAdvisor. The trouble with an open platform (where anyone can create a profile and leave a review), is that it’s difficult to decipher which reviews are genuine.

Consumers can easily be misled, resulting in a disappointing customer experience further down the line. It’s not all doom and gloom of course, there is plenty of genuine feedback out there. Some sites, such as Feefo, work hard to gather genuine reviews by operating a closed review platform, which personally invites customers to leave a review once they have made purchase.

Fake reviews are damaging, but are they illegal?

In terms of the question ‘Are fake reviews illegal?’, the short answer is ‘yes’. Although posting a fake review, or failing to include negative reviews may not seem like a big deal, purposefully misleading your customers could place you in violation of the 2008 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, resulting in severe punishment. 

For example, in 2016, the Airbnb system was preventing customers who cut their trip short due to an issue with a property or host from leaving feedback. The organisation was rebuked by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for publishing misleading reviews. The matter has since been rectified, but the case highlights just how seriously the subject is viewed.

The good news is that the laws around fake reviews don’t just apply to businesses; consumers can also be held to account. If you find yourself under fire from unjust feedback (such as a defamatory review from a competitor), here are a few things you can do:

  • Get solid proof – to get any review removed or to take legal action, you will need to be able to prove that the feedback is false
  • Contact the review platform to see if the review can be removed
  • If the fake review has been left on your Google ‘My Business’ page, then you can report this through Google’s own interface; however, you’ll need to prove that the review wasn’t left by a genuine customer
  • It is possible to sue an individual for leaving a fake review, but you must contact a solicitor and have solid proof that the allegations are false and that you have lost business as a direct result, before you can take it to court

Kick fake feedback to the curb

At Feefo, we believe that genuine feedback is key to improving and growing your business. To find out more, get in touch with us today!

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