The report which the CMA has published today, following its call for information in relation to online reviews and endorsements, contains a number of dramatic conclusions. In addition to reinforcing what had already been understood by businesses (particularly in the hospitality space) about the value of positive reviews, the report concludes that unlawful behaviour around reviews occurs more frequently than many might have expected.
This unlawful behaviour can take a variety of forms, from so-called "astro-turfing" or the posting of a blanket of false positive reviews about a business's own services, to the posting of fake reviews about another business, either to gain a competitive advantage or even as a basis for attempts at blackmail.
These concerns and more, which emerge from a detailed reading of the CMA's conclusions, more than justify the further work that they are proposing to undertake both domestically and internationally after its assumption of the presidency of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network next month. It is an area of significance to any business that wins or transacts with customers online, and the anticipated further developments in this field will be watched with considerable interest.
Most buyers who used reviews and endorsements found that the product or service they bought matched up to their expectations. However, the CMA has also heard about instances of potentially misleading practices: fake reviews being posted onto review sites negative reviews not being published businesses paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles without this being made clear to consumers