Online consumer reviews: The case of misleading or fake reviews

27-10-2015

Online consumer review sites and platforms are tools that are widely used by consumers and are becoming embedded in both consumer behaviour and business models. A 2013 European Consumer Centres' Network web survey showed that 82% of respondents read consumer reviews before shopping. Tools for increasing consumer awareness and raising their trust in the market should not, however, mislead consumers with fake reviews, which, according to different estimates, represent between 1% and 16% of all 'consumer' reviews. Directive 2005/29/EC, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market defines misleading or aggressive commercial practices and prohibits, in particular, the practice of falsely representing oneself as a consumer. Misleading or fake reviews undermine consumers' confidence in the integrity of online reviews and lead to consumer detriment. A fake review can be defined as a positive, neutral or negative review that is not an actual consumer's honest and impartial opinion or that does not reflect a consumer's genuine experience of a product, service or business. Some European consumer organisations say review sites would benefit from being regulated, or to some extent standardised. The problem of fake online reviews not only concerns individual consumers; it can lead to an erosion of consumer confidence in the online market, which can reduce competition. To deal with this issue, some guidelines have already been adopted by consumer enforcement bodies, regulators and other stakeholders, in the EU and internationally. Enforcement actions have also been taken. Fake online reviews should be taken seriously, as more and more consumers buy online, and the practice is becoming increasingly sophisticated.

Online consumer review sites and platforms are tools that are widely used by consumers and are becoming embedded in both consumer behaviour and business models. A 2013 European Consumer Centres' Network web survey showed that 82% of respondents read consumer reviews before shopping. Tools for increasing consumer awareness and raising their trust in the market should not, however, mislead consumers with fake reviews, which, according to different estimates, represent between 1% and 16% of all 'consumer' reviews. Directive 2005/29/EC, the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market defines misleading or aggressive commercial practices and prohibits, in particular, the practice of falsely representing oneself as a consumer. Misleading or fake reviews undermine consumers' confidence in the integrity of online reviews and lead to consumer detriment. A fake review can be defined as a positive, neutral or negative review that is not an actual consumer's honest and impartial opinion or that does not reflect a consumer's genuine experience of a product, service or business. Some European consumer organisations say review sites would benefit from being regulated, or to some extent standardised. The problem of fake online reviews not only concerns individual consumers; it can lead to an erosion of consumer confidence in the online market, which can reduce competition. To deal with this issue, some guidelines have already been adopted by consumer enforcement bodies, regulators and other stakeholders, in the EU and internationally. Enforcement actions have also been taken. Fake online reviews should be taken seriously, as more and more consumers buy online, and the practice is becoming increasingly sophisticated.