STOP! – It May Cost You to Remove that Negative Review
Marketing 101 – publish testimonials and reviews to help create a positive view of your brand, to boost sales, to attract future customers/clients and to boost your website’s SEO.
It’s awesome to be loved by your customers/clients and for the love to be shared through testimonials and reviews shouted out on websites, social media and review sites. Clients/customers expect reviews to be independent and genuine. Problem is, the increase of review platforms has bought an increase in fake testimonials and reviews.
Enter the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) who have issued guidelines for managing online reviews to combat dishonest, misleading and shonky practices.
BE Warned – breaching the guidelines can result in hefty fines. The 2011, the ACCC fined a removalist business $6,600 for misleading online reviews. The business admitted to having made representations on its website that purported to be testimonials by genuine consumers when they were not.
So, generally speaking, what are the NoNos when it comes to testimonials and reviews. In a nutshell:
- You need to remove fake or misleading reviews. Testimonials/reviews may be considered fake or misleading if they are presented as impartial, but were written by:
- the reviewed business
- a competitor
- someone paid to write the review who has not used the product or service
- someone who has used the product or service but written an inflated review to receive a financial or non-financial benefit.
Reviews you know to be fake or misleading risk breeching the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.
- You should not:
- encourage family and friends to write reviews about your business without disclosing their personal connection with your business in that review
- write reviews when you have not experienced the product or service reviewed or which do not reflect a genuinely held position
- solicit others to write reviews about your business or a competitor’s business if they have not experienced the product or service.
- You should only offer incentives in exchange for reviews if:
- incentives are offered equally to consumers likely to be complimentary and consumers likely to be critical, and positive and negative reviews are treated the same
- the reviewer is expressly told that the incentive is available whether the review is positive or negative
- the incentive is prominently disclosed to users who rely on affected reviews.
- You should disclose commercial relationships between review platforms and your business to ensure the relationship does not influence the overall rating of a business on the site. For example, a review platform may allow a business that advertises on the site to select a review to appear at the top of the page or prevent negative reviews from being automatically uploaded.
- Ensure the consumer review platforms you rely on disclose the total number of reviews that the rating is based on next to the aggregated rating (eg, 3 stars, 24 reviews).
- Think twice before selectively removing or editing reviews, particularly negative/critical reviews. If the total body of reviews doesn’t reflect the opinions of consumers who have submitted the reviews consumers may be misled.
For more information about the ACCC’s guidelines, here’s the link.
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