Small Businesses – Fake Reviews Can Close You Down
Don’t post fake reviews on your website – it could cost you your business.
Recently, the Federal Court fined Star Plus Group for faking online reviews. Star Plus Group an electrical, plumbing and gas fitting service company posted nearly 150 false testimonials on Yellow Pages website and productreview.com.au under false names. Star then claimed the 4.8 Yellow Pages rating on its website.
Star also falsified several invoices that “were addressed to fictitious individuals and were prepared and submitted to facilitate the misleading and deceptive conduct”. Judge Shaun Brendan McElwaine said that the conduct was “deliberate, sophisticated and well-planned” and that such favourable reviews unfairly advantaged Star.
The ACCC website page for Online Product and Service Reviews states:
- It’s against the law for a business to create fake or misleading reviews or to arrange for others to do so;
- Reviews encompass business’ website, social media or review platforms;
- Reviews should be independent;
- Reviews should reflect genuine opinion of the person who experienced the product or service;
- Reviews cannot be edited or changed by someone else after being created;
- Businesses cannot suppress, remove or edit negative reviews;
- Businesses that offer incentives for positive reviews must clearly disclose how the review was incentivized.
- If a business is concerned that a review platform has published a false or misleading review – they should contact the platform and request it be removed. Or they can correct the public record.
The ACCC can accept reports about fake/misleading reviews and can investigate further. It is worthwhile to read the page to ensure that your business complies with the guidelines.
In the end, the court ordered SPF (SA) to publish a notice on their website acknowledging its conduct, the Court’s finding and the fine.
The fine was $125K, can your business afford that?