In January, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued new guidance for retailers that use review platforms and comparison websites to boost their online reputation as well as guidance for websites that feature customer reviews.
First, the FTC reminds companies to know the rules of the websites and platforms on which its online reviews appear, such as whether incentivized reviews are disallowed or require a disclosure, and to not ask for reviews from non-users, friends/family, or only from customers who will leave positive reviews. Second, the FTC reminds companies to be careful when working with comparison websites and review platforms that may be engaging in deceptive conduct, such as running pay-to-play operations or writing fake reviews. As a reminder, the FTC views fake reviews and paying supposedly independent websites for good rankings as deceptive and manipulative conduct that harms consumers. Lastly, the FTC reminds companies to have processes in place to ensure that its online customer reviews reflect feedback received from real customers about real experiences, including in the following areas:
- Review Collection: Companies should not ask for reviews only from customers who will leave positive ones and should not discourage people from leaving negative reviews. Additionally, incentives should not be conditioned on the review being positive, and the review should disclose any incentive provided.
- Review Moderation: Companies should have processes in place to verify that reviews are genuine and not fake. Companies should not edit the reviews, and should treat positive and negatives reviews equally.
- Review Publication: Companies should publish all genuine reviews, should not exclude negative ones, and should not display reviews in a misleading fashion. Companies should ensure that any material connection or relationship that the reviewer has to the company (e.g. having received compensation or a free product) is disclosed. Companies should also disclose how they collect, process, and display reviews and determine overall ratings. Lastly, companies should have procedures in place to identify and investigate potentially fake reviews.
Following these tips will ensure that you’re adhering to current FTC guidance when it comes to customer reviews.