The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued fresh guidance on online reviews and endorsements, warning that businesses which arrange for third parties to write fake positive reviews about them could risk breaking with consumer protection law.
This warning comes following an investigation into an online marketing company that has been found to have written over 800 fake positive reviews for 86 small businesses between 2014-2015. Total SEO & Marketing Ltd has co-operated with the CMA’s consumer law investigation, and the company and its directors have undertaken to the CMA that they have ceased the practice of writing fake reviews for their clients, and will take steps to remove the fake reviews already posted online.
“With more than half of people in the UK using online reviews to help them choose what to buy, they are becoming an increasingly valuable source of information,” says Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, Consumer. “Fake reviews can lead to people making the wrong decisions and fair-playing businesses losing out.
“Search engine optimisation companies, PR and marketing agencies provide a valuable service to businesses, but they must do this lawfully. Our enforcement action against Total SEO makes clear that posting fake reviews about clients is unacceptable.
“This is our latest action to ensure that consumers can trust in the opinions that they read on online, following the CMA’s report last summer into online reviews and endorsements. In the next few weeks, we expect to announce the outcome of our investigation into unlabelled endorsements.”