The internet has always been a tool that has enabled us to communicate and to share information with each other. It is arguably the greatest invention that we use on a daily basis, especially when we consider how its impact on our lives has birthed the “digital age”.
While the internet grants us access to a wealth of information with just a few clicks and taps, it also exposes us to many dangers. Cybercriminals are rampant, and they have several tools that they exploit to take advantage of others. There is one seemingly harmless method that they use to sway user opinions, and it’s through fake online reviews.
Fake Online Reviews
It’s no secret that the eCommerce industry has become a lifeline for many people who are confined within the walls of their home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because customers are unable to check items themselves before purchasing, they now rely on online reviews from customers who have purchased these products in order to ascertain quality. The problem is that approximately 39% of 2.7 million online reviews are fake.
How Does This Harm the eCommerce Sector?
Aside from customers being unduly manipulated into buying or avoiding a product, another danger that fake reviews pose is with the loss of credibility, not just for merchants, but for entire platforms. Fake reviews threaten the value of legitimate reviews. If prospective buyers don’t have a point of reference to help them make purchase decisions, they’re unlikely to make a purchase at all, and this is bad for everyone, including those who create fake reviews.
What Are the Legalities Involved In Creating Fake Reviews?
The Federal Trade Commision Act (FTCA) penalizes businesses that consort with paid fake review sites to influence the standing of their product on a website. The misrepresentation or deceptive omissions of material (as is the case with fake reviews) constitutes deceptive acts or practices prohibited by Section 5(a) of the FTCA.
Section 5(a) prohibits the spreading of false advertisement with this intention of inducing the purchase of goods. This scenario is best illustrated in the recent case of Case no. 19-cv-982, CURE ENCAPSULATIONS, INC vs FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION.
The penalty for such a crime is a hefty fine of several millions of dollars, and the guilty party is obliged to notify the people that purchased the product in question of the investigations made by the Federal Trade Commision.
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing entire communities to quarantine themselves in their homes, the internet and eCommerce have never been more useful than they are today. There are many ways to spot a real review from a fake review.
It’s important to remember that while these tools are lifelines, we have to appreciate them for what they truly are – tools. Like any tool, they can be used to build, and they can be used to destroy. Never forget the importance of vigilance and common sense, especially during these trying times.