The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has recently published an open letter providing guidance to PR and marketing companies on online reviews and endorsements of consumer products and services. This follows the CMA’s investigation into how online reviews and endorsements are being used and whether this use complies with consumer protection laws.
Online reviews play an important role in helping potential customers decide whether to buy a product or service. Writing or commissioning fake reviews could lead to civil or criminal action. Once discovered, it can also damage the image of the brand and erode customers’ trust in reviews and review sites.
The CMA has already taken action against an online marketing company that posted fake reviews on behalf of small business clients and posted them on different websites.
In their recent guidance they highlight two areas of concern
Clearly labelling or identifying paid promotions
Businesses should ensure that it is obvious to readers when articles or blogs feature paid promotions, by clearly identifying or labelling paid promotions, providing clear instructions to marketing agencies, and ensuring that all policies on paid promotions reflect the requirements of consumer protection law.
Writing, commissioning and publishing fake reviews
Businesses should not offer inducements to customers in return for positive reviews and not pretend to be a customer and write fake reviews. If customers are invited to provide feedback this must be done honestly, as misleading readers may breach consumer protection laws.
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