If you have a business and want to fatten it up with false favorable customer reviews, know that it can be very expensive | Business | The USA Print


The influence of reviews on consumers when making their purchase decisions is a fact supported by many surveys. Like, for example, the Reviews report on-linethe sales lever in the retail postcovid, of Apache Digital and Appinio published in September 2021, according to which 47% of users in Spain value internet opinions as a determining factor for the purchase, a proportion that reaches almost 60% in the case of younger. Likewise, the study reveals that 70% of consumers are willing to spend more in physical establishments if they have previously seen a positive evaluation. The number of comments is also an important factor in giving credibility to testimonials, says this survey. Consumers trust more if there are between 50 and 200 comments.

With these data, it is not surprising that the European Union has focused on the veracity of the opinions expressed on the Internet. In fact, last January the European Commission announced that after analyzing 223 major websites, it concluded that at least 55% of them potentially violate the Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices, which requires that truthful information be presented to consumers so that they can choose wisely.

Within that truthful information that companies must provide are reviews. Its reliability is the main objective of the new obligations of the Law for the defense of Consumers and Users and the Unfair Competition Law, as a result of the implementation in Spain of the Omnibus Directive on consumer protection, and which came into force last May 28. Businesses that fail to comply with them risk being sanctioned with fines that can reach one million euros or reach between six and eight times the illicit profit obtained, for infractions committed in Spain, and up to 4% of the turnover or two million euros. euros, in the case of those that affect several European countries.

As Cristina Mesa, a partner in Garrigues’ industrial and intellectual property department, points out, from now on online businesses are required to report whether the opinions they support are real, that is, whether they have been made by customers who have bought the product, and explain to the users with what mechanisms they have verified it. “It’s about preventing the consumer from being given the impression that the reviews are verified, when they are not,” explains Mesa.

“It is an obligation of means and not of results”, explains Natalia Martos, CEO and founder of Legal Army. “Merchants who cannot bear the cost of putting comment authentication mechanisms in place will be able to choose not to do so, as long as they clearly state that their reviews are unverified,” the lawyer says. An option that has its risks since, as Carlos Rivadulla, president of ECIJA, indicates, “if a very high percentage of the comments in stores are false or erroneous, the evaluation system itself will lose value for consumers”.

Merchants are also prohibited from posting false comments or reviews for the purpose of promoting products. “The typical case of making friends and family rate and write evaluations when they have not tried or consumed the products and services”, explains Rivadulla.

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Another case that promises to give businesses more than one headache is that of the recommendations of the influencers. As Efrén Díaz, head of the technology area at the Mas y Calvet law firm, observes, verifying the veracity of these reviews becomes even more complex. “In these cases, it is necessary to determine if they act independently or sponsored, if their opinion is truthful, verifiable or scientific, and distinguish certain products, such as medical or pharmaceutical products, that require compliance with minimum necessary information duties,” he explains.

Mesa advises that businesses that want to rely on verified reviews review their contracts with advertising agencies to include clauses to prohibit the use of false or distorted reviews. The work must also be internal. In the first place, the lawyer points out, it is necessary to carry out a self-analysis on how the verifications are being carried out and if the processes used are really useful when verifying the authenticity of the opinions. Once it is verified that the technology is adequate, it should be explained to consumers, in a clear and understandable way, what mechanisms are being used for verification.

At this point, Maitane Valdecantos, a partner at Audens, warns that “there is no effective mechanism beyond analyzing each review”, although she adds that there are certain signs that can help identify false comments, such as the use of vague language and repetitive, that they are either very positive or very negative, or that the users who write them are not clearly identifiable. Regarding verification systems, some platforms and marketplaces they have theirs. This is the case of Google Maps, which allows you to fill out a form to request that an evaluation that is considered false be reviewed, or the Verified Profiles (verified users) of Amazon, which marks with that seal those registered on its website and who are users. proven assets. Also, as Valdecantos points out, it is possible to use an external third party that guarantees the authenticity of the reviews, such as eKomi, Trusted shops, Trustivity or Trustpilot.


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