Posting Deceptive Product Reviews Online

I saw competitive product reviews posted online and I’m fairly confident it was the competitor posting and not a real consumer. Are there any regulations against this type of activity?

By Jennifer Manocchio

There most certainly are FTC guidelines for this type of deceptive activity.

Late last year, the FTC updated its guidelines for how advertisers/marketers need to avoid deceptive advertising (including online), and the FTC is cracking down on offenders. According to the principles of truth in advertising, the director of the FTC’s division of advertising practices, said in a statement “Advertisers should not pass themselves off as ordinary consumers touting a product, and endorsers should make it clear when they have financial connections to sellers.”

These guidelines not only include posting deceptive product reviews, but also bloggers not disclosing if they were paid to post the review or were provided a free product sample. See the post “The Impact FTC Guidelines Have on Blogger Relations” for more information on complying with the FTC when it comes to blogs and bloggers.

If you suspect your competitors are partaking in this activity, send the posts to the FTC to investigate.

This is also a good opportunity to take a look at your internal protocol for responding to blogs, message boards, media stories, tweets, etc. about your company and its products or services. As a best practice, if you are responding on behalf of your company to an online review or comment, clearly disclose your connection with the company. This will not only give you credibility with your target audiences, it will ensure you are following government guidelines.

Jim Sweeney

Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.