Online testimonials — are you doing enough to avoid ACCC scrutiny?

By Noelia Boscana and Simone Knight

Customer testimonials about goods or services have become increasingly common, particularly via social media, and can appear on a business’s website, Facebook wall, Twitter accounts and blogs. Review platforms (such as TripAdvisor) also use testimonials and average ratings (e.g. on satisfaction or price). Online reviews present a risk for businesses as they may engage in misleading or deceptive conduct in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.

In December last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a guide to handling online reviews and review platforms. While the guide is only an interpretation of the law, it provides an insight into the ACCC’s view on the scope of a business’s obligations, including best-practice monitoring and disclosure recommendations, and can assist in avoiding scrutiny and ensuring compliance with the Australian Consumer Law.

A business that uses online reviews can inadvertently engage in misleading or deceptive conduct and breach the law if: a consumer posts a fake testimonial; fake testimonials are written by a competitor of the reviewed business; the business assumes the role of the consumer to write a review of its own goods or services; or the reviewed business edits or removes testimonials to create the wrong impression about a good or service…

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