The ACCC has warned that it is monitoring the internet for fake reviews, and could fine offending companies up to $1.1 million for bad behaviour.
According to the regulator, fake online reviews could be considered “misleading or deceptive conduct”, breaching Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act.
ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said businesses were relying increasingly on online reviews, with a recent survey finding that almost three-quarters of social media users (74%) read online reviews before making a purchase.
“Fake online reviews mislead consumers and hurt Australian businesses,” he said. “Businesses that pay for or post fake reviews can gain an unfair advantage or damage their rivals.”
Here’s what the ACCC considers unacceptable:
- Reviews that are presented as impartial, but written by the reviewed business, a competitor, someone who was paid to write the review and has not used the product, or someone who has used the product but has been incentivised to write a good review;
- Businesses and review platforms that selectively remove or edit reviews, particularly negative reviews;
- Encouraging family and friends to write reviews about the business without disclosing their personal connections with the business in the review;
- Soliciting others to write reviews about a business or a competitor if they have not experienced the good or service; and
- Writing reviews that do not reflect a genuinely held opinion.
There’s more in the ACCC’s online review guidelines.
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