Understanding Google My Business & Local Search
Fake Reviews – Everyone is doing it, so it must be legal
I absolutely loved this thread at blackhatworld. The original poster asked:
Does anybody know if it is illegal to sell fake online reviews?
I have heard about companies getting fined for posting / buying fake reviews, but can the seller actually get in trouble? If so then why does Fiverr allow you to post review gigs, I mean there is a whole section dedicated to them!
If it is illegal what I have in mind is putting in my T&C’s that all the reviews we post will be taken from other review sites for example:
If you have reviews on Amazon we will copy these and put them onto Review Centre.
Any advice would be appreciated!
A smattering of the answers that make it sound a bit more like dumbhatworld:
- If you don’t say anything negative abut some one or some company it is probably legal. No one can punish you for good review even if it is fake
- It’s not really illegal since there are so many people doing it..
- Fake Review Not Problem But Need Different Different IP For Work
- Slander is illegal so if you’re leaving negative feedback and lying in the process then yes it’s immoral and illegal. If, however, someone offers you a product in exchange for a review (much like what happens in the sales threads on here) then there’s nothing wrong with that, provided the review is honest and fair.
The answers went from dumb to dumber at least until one poster finally posted a reasoned response based on some real (very painful) experience that I have covered previously:
I owned Glowing Reviews, which was sued by Edmunds last year for posting “fake reviews”, so I can answer with first hand info. (Just google ‘glowing reviews edmunds’)
Each country will have different laws, so I’ll answer with the US version. You need to read the FTC guidelines for testimonials(reviews) in advertising:
After consulting with attorneys, they believed that as long as a review could be tracked back to an individual it was ok. So, for example, if you collected reviews via comment card, phone call, and email and had a way to get back in touch with the customer, it would be ok to post.
At the same time, each site that allows you to post reviews (such as Amazon in your case or Edmunds in mine) has TOS that you’re supposed to follow. At every site you’ll find they require that the person posting the review is the actual person who experienced the service. So if you post on behalf of someone else, you’ll be violating the TOS.
I expected if any site ever got angry about me posting REAL reviews under my accounts, I’d get a C&D letter. I was wrong and got sued.
Someone else in this thread mentioned that it’s ok because everyone else does it. Well, good luck with that strategy. Lots of people do this, but do you always want to live wondering when you get the call from Wall Street Journal letting you know you were sued and what your comment is?
I can give more examples of legal issues causing headaches (twitter bots a couple of years ago, Yelp suing fake review posters, etc), but suffice it to say it’s probably better to find a better way to get your reviews up.
One more thing… If you incent the reviews in any way (Ie – leave a review on Amazon and you’ll get 25% off your next order), according to the FTC PDF I linked, they need to say that they are a paid endorser in their review. I’d expect to get sued less often by the FTC for “forgetting this” or doing it on a small scale, but if they decide to make an example of someone look out…
The bottom line? Fake reviews are illegal plain and simple. The rewards of fake reviews are positive. The risks on the other hand, while infrequent, are very high.
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