The Legaility Of Fake Business Reviews: A Lawyer’s Perspective
After we've taken a general look at fake ratings in the first part of our blog series, we would now like to examine the legal aspects. We've asked Karsten Gulden, LL.M. - lawyer specializing in copyright and media law in Mainz, about fake ratings and legal consequences. He explains the liability and possible consequences for companies that buy positive ratings and those who want to harm competitors using negative ratings. In addition, we examine the question of whether online ratings can be trusted at all and what consumers can do about fake ratings.
Buying ratings, or simply giving yourself five stars. Can it be legally problematic?
“Positive fake reviews from non-customers may be a small image boost since first impressions count, and good ratings certainly make a good impression. As a rule, customers don't see who wrote the review. However, fake reviews are not welcomed either by the portal operators nor by the customers whom they deceive. There are also legal problems with fake ratings.
Comments and ratings paid for are often easy to spot because they follow a template. Who is responsible for this?
“Those selling fake reviews are liable just like the company buying them to display on their profile. Consumer protection groups and competitors can report companies that present themselves with fake ratings on the web. It is also possible that the ratings platforms and companies that warn sellers and users of fake reviews can even claim damages.”
For more tips on spotting fake customer reviews, read here.
What can companies do about negative fake ratings from the competition?
“It is easy to go into counterattack against your competition. Competitors can be warned and be forced to cease their tactics of using fake ratings in the future. This can get expensive for the warned companies since they are responsible for the warning costs. The biggest obstacle is proof. Those wishing to obtain the competition served with a notice have to be able to prove that they use fake ratings.”
When does an expressed opinion turn into defamation or even abuse?
“Punishable statements are defamation, libel and slander. Likewise punishable are statements whose sole purpose is to portray the rated company in a negative light without any objective connection to the products and services. This must be proved on an individual basis.”
In which cases is it recommended that a company get a lawyer?
“Companies should find a lawyer if negative ratings cannot be removed with minimal effort. Engaging the services of a lawyer has been proved to be the fastest and most economical way of protecting a company's reputation.”
You use ProvenExpert yourself. Do you think that consumers can trust online ratings?
“There is no guaranteed trust in ratings. You also have to remember that many real ratings are very emotional and can contain exaggerations.
“But consumers can trust their overall picture of the business. If you take the time to learn about a company, you will see the many sides from which it has been reviewed. Then, consumers will usually get an authentic overall picture.”
What can users do about obviously fake ratings on review platforms?
“Consumers can also pass on information to the rating portals and consumer protection groups.”
Thank you for the interview, Mr Gulden!
You can find the review profile of gulden röttger | law office here.
Gulden Rottger, copyright and media law specialist, shares how:
- Companies that use fake ratings usually violate a platforms terms of service and risk being banned
- Those selling fake reviews are liable just like the company buying them to display on their profile
- The biggest obstacle is proof. Those wishing to get the competition served with a notice has to be able to prove that they use fake ratings
- Likewise punishable are statements whose sole purpose is to portray the rated company in a negative light without any objective connection to the products and services
Want to take control over your reputation? Manage your reviews with ease on ProvenExpert now.