Monday, 26 September 2016 00:08

CHOICE welcomes ACCC’s sweep of ‘fake’ websites Featured

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Consumer activist group CHOICE has come out in support of the competition watchdog, the ACCC, and its investigation into the review policies of sharing economy platforms, as part of an international initiative targeting online reviews and endorsements.

The online reviews of sharing services like Uber and Airbnb and other regular businesses by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, as reported by iTWire, is part of a worldwide move targeting such reviews and endorsements.  

And, the initiative is part of an annual Internet sweep conducted by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network and is carried out by more than 50 consumer protection agencies.

Choice’s welcoming of the investigation by the ACCC follows the activist group’s analysis last year that found 20 long-form reviews can be purchased for as little as $31 and 5000 Instagram followers can be tacked on for just $75.

“With many consumers relying on user reviews to help inform their purchasing decisions, it’s concerning to think that as many as 15% of all online reviews are fake,” says Choice head of media Tom Godfrey.

“The boom in the share economy has also resulted in the staggering popularity of user reviews, as consumers share and rate their experiences. Unfortunately, this has given rise to the practice of companies’ writing fake reviews to promote their own business.

“Whether you are reading reviews on a hotel booking site, rating a ride sharing service or following a celebrity on Instagram, you need to be able to trust what you’re reading.”

Godfrey says it’s important to remember that Section 29 of Australian Consumer Law prevents businesses from making or inducing false or misleading representations through testimonials or reviews.

“Businesses that pay people to write reviews who have never used their products or services are clearly misleading consumers.

“It’s worth remembering that if a company pays someone to write an inflated review, even if the person has actually used the goods or service, this may also be considering misleading. The same considerations apply to editing or deleting less favourable ratings,” Godfrey warns.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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