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.
“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.