Protect yourself and your business against the rise in fake online reviews
Online shopping has doubled over the past six years, making the UK the third biggest online market in the world. This growth has spawned a need for feedback from customers to help with the purchase decision process. A figure often quoted suggests that online reviews potentially influence £23 billion of spending each year by UK-based customers alone. But how does one know which reviews to trust and how can you protect your business from the large number of fake or defamatory reviews online?
Which? discovered that almost 9 in 10 reviews on Amazon are unverified, so it is not clear whether the reviewer ever even purchased the product. Which? also analysed over 250,000 reviews for top-rated hotels and found that 1 in 7 had the potential to be fake.
For any business, large or small, the impact of just one fake review can be huge, causing damage to the business’s reputation (or its employees) and financial loss. An example from the beauty industry occurred recently when Sunday Riley, a fashionable skincare brand, was accused of posting fake reviews on rival Sephora’s website. It was also alleged that the CEO, Sunday Riley, had herself encouraged employees to write fake positive reviews on their own website and to dislike any negative reviews with the aim of getting them removed. A settlement was reached by Sunday Riley with the US Federal Trade Commission who ordered them not to post fake reviews in the future. No financial sanctions have so far been ordered, leading to anger in the industry. Fakespot (a website with proprietary algorithms that look for patterns in order to filter out fake reviews) estimates that 63% of reviews for beauty products on Amazon are fake.
If your business receives what you believe to be a fake online review or a defamatory review, the key is to act quickly and keep records of the posts including the website URL, the author, the date and time it was posted, and a copy of the post itself, including any comments made. If defamatory posts are brought to the attention of the web host and they refuse to remove them, there may be causes of action available to the business against the web host as well as the publisher of the review.
In Google Reviews, posts you believe to be fake or defamatory can initially be flagged online for Google to assess. In the event that posts are not removed by the web host, or the reviews are significantly serious to warrant further action being taken urgently, you should act quickly in instructing legal advisors to consider injunctive relief against the publisher and/or the web host, or any other action, for example a claim in defamation. In the event that the reviewer publishes anonymously, which is often the case, Griffin Law can assist in ascertaining the publisher’s information.
All businesses should be pro-active and vigilant in their efforts to protect their reputation in the online world. But even the best prepared can be targeted by an angry customer, a disgruntled former employee or a malicious competitor. We can assist in removing fake and damaging posts as soon as possible, mitigating any loss or suffering to you and your business and can work with you to ensure that the online culprits are prevented from posting similar reviews again.
We have expertise in the area of reputation protection, including establishing the Blaney’s Blarney order (named after our Founder, Donal Blaney) which was the first ever order to be served via Twitter and required an unknown Twitter user to stop posting under our client’s name and immediately identify themselves.
The internet is not always friendly and with the increased use of (anti?) social media, a poor reputation can spread like wildfire. As we all know, a good reputation is hard to win and easy to lose. Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
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