On 4 March 2016, the UK Competition and Markets Authority ("CMA") published guidance for businesses on how to comply with consumer protection law in relation to online reviews and endorsements.
Online reviews and endorsements are increasingly influential when customers decide whether or not to buy a product or service. The CMA has reported that more than half of adults in the UK use online reviews and that approximately 6% of consumers use blogs or vlogs before making purchases.
With this in mind, the CMA carried out investigations throughout 2015 which sought to identify unlawful practices having the potential to mislead consumers.
Its advice now comes in the form of three 60-second summaries for businesses entitled "Online Reviews: letting your customers see the true picture", "Giving a balanced picture: do's and don'ts for online review sites", and "Online Endorsements: being open and honest with your audience". The summaries explain what review sites, businesses, media agencies and those publishing opinions online should do to stay on the right side of consumer protection law.
So what should you do?
- Clearly identify paid endorsements
- Don't commission third parties to write fake reviews, you could be liable for their actions
- Don't offer incentives to customers to write positive reviews