The ACCC has issued recently infringement notices in relation to
three online testimonials alleged to have been created by removal
company Citymove and posted on Google+ and YouTube using fabricated
When the same testimonial appeared on different review websites
under different customer identities it was a pretty good tip off
for the ACCC. The regulator alleged that the customer identities
had been fabricated.
It was not the first time Citymove has come under fire from the
ACCC. In 2011 the regulator took action against the business and
issued an infringement notice over reviews on the website www.movingreview.com.au.
The first clue that these reviews were not genuinely independent
should have come from the fact the website was developed and run by
Citymove itself! The ACCC alleged that the purportedly independent
reviews on this website were not posted by genuine consumers and
were potentially misleading.
Testimonials can be very powerful marketing tools, and when
publishing or soliciting reviews, businesses have to be careful to
disclose any connection with the reviewer so that the reader is
provided with context and can make their own decision about whether
the review is genuinely independent. For example, if the
testimonial was written by someone trialling a product for free or
even a friend, those circumstances or relationships may need to be
made clear so that the ordinary consumer can factor this into their
decision. This conduct may seem a far cry from a business actually
making up a person and writing the review themselves, but it helps
to put yourself in the shoes of the online consumer making the
decision based on the review.
The ACCC also warns against the omission or editing of genuine
reviews. The better thing to do if your business receives a
negative review is to show how responsive it is in resolving the
customer's issue and hopefully generates a positive review
about your business' customer service.
If you are unsure about your business' current online
practices and whether they may be considered misleading and
deceptive, it pays to seek advice, as the ACCC will be increasingly
patrolling the online space for conduct potentially contravening
the guidelines they have issued.
This publication does not deal with every important topic or
change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute
for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's
specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of
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The Competition and Consumer Act strictly prohibits business conduct that is likely to, or will mislead or deceive consumers.
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