Don’t Fake your Online Reviews
The Commerce Commission has recently filed charges against Bachcare Limited for allegedly misleading customers by manipulating online reviews. The Commission is alleging that Bachcare manipulated its online reviews by removing negative comments before publishing them on their website. They also allege that Bachcare did not publish any review where a user had given a rating of less than 3.5 stars. The Commerce Commission are of the view that by doing so Bachcare have created an artificially positive impression of certain properties and have engaged in conduct which is liable to mislead consumers in breach of the Fair Trading Act 1986.
Section 9 of the Fair Trading Act 1986 prohibits anyone in trade from engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct or conduct which is likely to misled or deceive. This is serious stuff because there the fines for breaching section 9 are large – individuals can be fined up to $200,000 and companies or other bodies corporate can be fined up to $600,000.
The Bachcare matter is currently before the court so watch this space for further details on the case and/or a settlement with the Commerce Commission.
In the meantime, if your business publishes or uses online reviews in anyway, here are some tips to make sure you don’t breach the Fair Trading Act 1986:
- Be genuine – only collect genuine reviews.
- Don’t fake it - do not write, request or publish fake reviews.
- Don’t be selective – when promoting your online reviews, do not exclude the bad ones.
- Don’t “edit” – do not change any reviews.
- Have a policy – if you have a practice of using your online reviews – implement a policy which will help ensure that all reviews are genuine and not misleading in anyway.
- Disclose any bias – make sure you disclose any relationship you may have with a reviewer which may affect impartiality.
- Don’t change order – make sure you present reviews in the order they are received and don’t manipulate the order so that all the positive ones are seen first.
- Disclose use – if you are going to publish any reviews make sure that customers know that you are going to do so.
By investigating Bachcare Limited and filing proceedings against them, the Commerce Commission has signalled how serious they view this sort of behaviour. It will interesting to see the outcome of the case, but businesses are urged to take a serious approach to publishing their online reviews to ensure they don’t end up in the potentially hot water that Bachcare Limited has now found itself in.
For more information, contact Lizandra Bailey, partner.
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