Feeds

Bogus online reviews face EU ban

Ill will for shills

The essential guide to IT transformation

Business people who write fake reviews of their own products will fall foul of new European laws from next year. Laws banning businesses from misleading consumers will bar the act.

As consumers rely increasingly on online forums and message boards for impartial advice from other consumers on products and services, business people have started posting fake reviews praising their own goods.

From Amazon book reviews to travel site hotel write-ups, several business people have been caught pretending to be consumers and giving their businesses rave reviews. The new European laws will outlaw the practice.

The EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices creates new protection for consumers against the practices of businesses and introduces a "general duty to trade fairly" for the first time in the UK.

The directive empowers business rivals to sue those who engage in unfair commercial practices. Organisations with an interest in combating unfair commercial practices, such as the Office of Fair Trading in the UK, can also take legal action.

The directive orders member states to set their own penalties for breaching the new rules, demanding only that they are "effective, proportionate and dissuasive".

"The new legislation outlines 'sharp practices' which will be prohibited throughout the EU, such as pressure selling, misleading marketing and unfair advertising," said an explanation from the European Commission's Consumer Affairs department.

"A commercial practice is misleading if it in any way, including overall presentation, deceives or is likely to deceive the average consumer, even if the information is correct and causes or is likely to cause him to take a transactional decision that he would have otherwise not taken," the Directive says.

Though UK consumers have consumer protections, they tend to be sector specific and contained in a number of laws. The act of transposing the directive into UK law will put consumer protection law in one place for the first time. That must take place by 12 December this year.

The new laws are designed to protect consumers, and include demands that businesses not mislead customers, that they do not engage in aggressive marketing such as door step selling, fake "closing down" sales and the use of pester power, where products are marketed to children who are expected to annoy parents into buying them.

The Sunday Times recently carried out a survey of travel recommendation sites and found a number carried "reviews" by restaurant and guest house proprietors. Owner David Bremner admitted writing a glowing review of his hotel, the Drumnadrochit hotel near Loch Ness, without mentioning that he was the proprietor.

It found that establishments with poor ratings could transform them in just a few hours by posting positive reviews whether or not the reviewers had been there or were connected with their owners.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Redmond resists order to hand over overseas email
Court wanted peek as related to US investigation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.