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Online reviews are an increasingly integral part of the purchasing process, in Australia and internationally. Consumers consult review sites to make decisions ranging from, ‘Which restaurant makes the hottest jalapeno pizza?’ to ‘Which airports offer the most comfortable options for backpackers trying to save a few dollars by sleeping overnight?’ Consumer reviews are a cost-effective and powerful tool to make choices about the decision to purchase.

Recognising that review websites play such an important role in the decision to purchase is the genesis of the strict rules governing what businesses can and cannot post on a review website. This article will then briefly discuss how businesses can comply with the Australian Consumer Law when using online review platforms, such as Zomato and Trustpilot.

Advertising on Online Review Platforms: Be Genuine

The reviews available on a review platform must be true reflections of a customer’s opinion. If a review is not genuine, this is conduct that is likely to mislead other consumers and lead them to form an impression of the business that they would not otherwise have created. The ACCC does not tolerate misleading conduct and posting fabricated reviews on review platforms can lead to penalties, such as the ones discussed below in the Citymove case.

What Not to Do?

Do not:

  • Post fake testimonials or reviews on any advertising medium;
  • Commission or pay another person to write reviews on an online platform;
  • Do not post reviews about a competitor’s business that are untrue or misleading.

The Citymove Case

Citymove is a company providing removalist services Australia-wide. Not satisfied with their attention-seeking, fashion forward, fuschia coloured uniforms to attract customers, Citymove created a review website. Ostensibly, happy Citymove customers could post reviews about their Citymove experience – hopefully, how delicately they transported Theodore’s prized record collection. Instead, Citymove created fake testimonials and published the testimonials on another website. Citymove decided it wanted more of the forbidden pie and also published fake testimonials on third party review platforms.

The above-mentioned forbidden pie came back to bite, as forbidden pie tends to do. Citymove had to cough up a $6,600 fine for its infringement of the Australian Consumer Law. They also had to agree to a court-enforced undertaking to refrain from making false or misleading representations that purported to be testimonial,  and to establish a trade practice compliance program.

Key Takeaways

In summary, positive customer reviews on review platforms are one of the easiest and most effective forms of advertising. Best of all, it’s free! Rather than spend money and time in creating fake testimonials, focus on making your business a quality outfit that consumers will return to of their own accord. Don’t risk breaching the Australian Consumer Law – a $6,600 penalty is minor when compared with the maximum the law allows.

Questions? Please get in touch on 1300 544 755.

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