Consumers trust reviews to help them pick the right businesses for their needs, but unethical fake reviews hurt the integrity of the entire review system. Businesses may even threaten consumers in order to prevent negative reviews.
Since consumers are more likely to work with a business with numerous positive reviews, it’s not unheard of for businesses to ask employees or hire a third-party to post fake reviews. While great in theory, the end result doesn’t always turn out so well.
Review Restrictions Are Illegal
According to the Consumer Review Fairness Act, it’s illegal for businesses to prevent consumers from sharing their honest opinions. This includes sneaky terms and policies allowing businesses to sue the consumer if they do leave a negative review. Of course, businesses can still report any false, misleading or libelous reviews since these aren’t real.
However, some businesses try to find ways to force consumers into leaving positive reviews, even if they didn’t have a good experience. This might penalize a consumer in some way if they leave a negative review or even charge a fee if they don’t leave a positive review in a set period. It’s up to consumers and employees of these businesses to report this to the FTC.
Businesses doing this can face hefty fines. Plus, if the news gets out, it can ruin your business’s reputation and pave the way for the competition to succeed.
Unethical Fake Reviews Aren’t Beneficial
Even if a business is complying with the Consumer Review Fairness Act, they might still try a more common approach – posting their own fake reviews. The idea is that with enough positive reviews, they’ll become the top recommended business in their niche or local area.
This can involve getting employees to create fake accounts on review sites to post numerous positive reviews about the company. They might even hire random people on job boards, such as Craigslist, to post for them.
If employees disagree, they might be threatened with their job. However, an ethics hotline can allow them to report this. Typically, it might only be certain people in the marketing department or a few corporate board members pushing this agenda. As a whistleblower, you can stop this from continuing, helping consumers get more honest reviews.
Once again, when people notice the reviews are fake, which they eventually do, it just hurts the business overall. And, any honest positive reviews are completely ignored.
Report Fake Reviews
Employees, management and owners who notice a growing number of obviously fake reviews should report those reviews immediately. If there is any tangible proof, fake reviews can be removed from the review site.
Unethical fake reviews should still be reported via an ethics hotline to let the business know that their reputation is at risk. Instead of focusing on fake reviews, the focus should be on providing great experiences to consumers. You can always remind consumers to please leave an honest review to let more people know about your business.
Encourage all employees to report any instances of fake reviews, especially if they’re the ones being asked to write them. Only honest reviews help your business. And, you could end up losing great employees who feel uncomfortable being asked to lie.