Fake online reviews the focus of new ACCC guide

hospitalityCredits: Hospitality Magazine By: Brea Carter

In a bid to tackle issues surrounding fake online reviews, The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a best practice guide for businesses and review platforms such as UrbanSpoon.

Online reviews: a guide for business and review platforms touches on everything from guiding principles for posting reviews to the definition of a review platform and recommendations for detecting and removing fake reviews.

The publication contains separate sections relating specificially to review platforms and reviewed businesses, and it outlines three core principles of conduct for businesses to abide by:

Be transparent about commercial relationships
* Don’t post or publish misleading reviews
* Remember that omitting negative reviews can be as misleading as posting fake reviews
* The publication highlights the ACCC's concern surrounding the increase in both paid for and fake reviews, particularly as most consumers believe the reviews are genuine

“Fake online reviews mislead consumers and hurt Australian businesses. Businesses that pay for or post fake reviews can gain an unfair advantage or damage their rivals,” said the ACCC's deputy chair, Dr Schaper.

The issue is also worrying as consumers increasingly look to online reviews when purchasing goods or service - the recently released Sensis Social Media Report 2013 suggests that 74 percent of social media users read online reviews before making a purchase.

“Many businesses rely on these reviews to promote their businesses, however, some unscrupulous businesses are taking advantage of consumer trust in online reviews,” said Dr Schaper.

The guidelines are designed to minimise the ability of review platform and businesses to mislead consumers by offering them a range of practical suggestions.

“Australian consumers have more choice than ever before. However, with more options available, it is important that there is accurate and reliable information available to help consumers choose,” Dr Schaper added.

Fake online reviews are classified as misleading of deceptive conduct, and can attract penalties of up to $1.1 million.

“Fake online reviews are in breach of the Australian Consumer Law and businesses are advised not to write or commission reviews about their own business or a competitor’s business which are misleading,” Dr Schaper explained.

The ACCC is also concerned about two other categories of misleading behaviour connected with online reviews:

* The manipulation of review results by review platforms as part of a commercial relationship between the platform and the reviewed business
* Businesses artificially inflating their review results by offering consumers generous incentives in exchange for reviews of their products or services

Above excerpts and read the full article on www.hospitalitymagazine.com.au

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