Over the last year, consumer protection agencies around the globe have worked together to prevent false or misleading reviews and endorsements online, and promote new guidelines to help review sites, digital influencers, marketing professionals and other traders understand what they should do to operate fairly.
The CMA’s 2015/16 Presidency of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) focused on improving practices in this area, and since then a range of action has been taken worldwide.
This has seen at least 16 enforcement cases, including one preventing a US business using deceptive online reviews that had been posted by its own employees, and another obtaining commitments from four Norwegian online newspapers to ensure that marketing messages are clearly distinguishable from editorial content.
Another case, currently before the Australian Federal Court, seeks to stop a property services company from trying to block guests it suspects would leave a negative review on TripAdvisor from receiving the email inviting their feedback.
In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) recent cases include requiring a retailer to disclose unfavourable reviews so that customers have the complete picture, and ensuring that a marketing firm clearly identifies when reviews posted online by social media celebrities are advertising.
Nisha Arora, CMA senior director and former ICPEN president, said: “Shoppers worldwide are increasingly relying on online reviews and endorsements before they make a decision to buy a product or service. People need to know they can trust the information they find online, and make informed choices as a result.
“By working together with international consumer protection partners, whether in providing clearer guidelines or taking enforcement action against businesses that flout the law, we can achieve greater impact and better outcomes for consumers across the globe.”