Wisely or not, we all like to believe that we can trust the internet. Indeed this is the reason we read “user reviews” before purchasing a product or check out Yelp before calling up that service provider. We instinctively trust these reviews because they seem to come from people just like us. And usually, they contain helpful, realistic advice. However, sometimes they don’t.
Fake reviews hurt each one of us because it is instinctive to rely on the word of others who appear to be just like us. Way back in 2009, the FTC’s Consumer Protection bureau revised guidelines for advertisers on how to comply with the FTC Act. The revisions to the “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” address endorsements by consumers and connections between advertisers and endorsers.
These regulations prohibit the worst abuses. Take for example, bloggers (other than this one, of course) who receive that free pair of shoes and then write a glowing review of those shoes only three weeks later without disclosing their “payment” via a free product would violate the rules. But just because something is against the law doesn’t mean that it won’t still happen. Just last month, Amazon cracked down on “fake” reviews. The number of reviews removed by Amazon may number in the thousands. How many thousands more reviews are out there deceiving consumers every day?
The FTC and its regulations can only do so much to protect consumers from these types of false advertisements. In order to truly end the practice, consumers like you and I must speak out when we see false or deceptive advertising. It is only our collective action and willingness to speak out and speak up, using the legal system when necessary, that will truly protect consumers from deceptive advertising.
Fortunately, there may be a way to take action; many states’ consumer protection laws will consider the FTC’s regulations when analyzing deceptive or false advertising. Check out the FTC regulations here. Failure to disclose payments to endorsers and misleading endorsements by experts and consumers harm consumers everyday. The next time you suspect that the FTC’s regulations are being ignored, speak up! Ask about that “real” glowing review. Your action could help save the next person who comes along a heap of trouble.
Have you been the victim of a fraudulent or deceptive advertisement or review? Contact Berk Law at (202) 232 – 7550 to discuss your legal rights.