Posting Deceptive Product Reviews Online

I saw competitive product reviews posted online and I’m fairly confident it was the competitor posting and not a real consumer. Are there any regulations against this type of activity?

By Jennifer Manocchio

There most certainly are FTC guidelines for this type of deceptive activity.

Late last year, the FTC updated its guidelines for how advertisers/marketers need to avoid deceptive advertising (including online), and the FTC is cracking down on offenders. According to the principles of truth in advertising, the director of the FTC’s division of advertising practices, said in a statement “Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers.”

These guidelines not only include posting deceptive product reviews, but also bloggers not disclosing if they were paid to post the review or were provided a free product sample. See the post “The Impact FTC Guidelines Have on Blogger Relations” for more information on complying with the FTC when it comes to blogs and bloggers.

If you suspect your competitors are partaking in this activity, send the posts to the FTC to investigate.

This is also a good opportunity to take a look at your internal protocol for responding to blogs, message boards, media stories, tweets, etc. about your company and its products or services. As a best practice, if you are responding on behalf of your company to an online review or comment, clearly disclose your connection with the company. This will not only give you credibility with your target audiences, it will ensure you are following government guidelines.

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