With the rise of online commerce and ever-increasing internet traffic, online reviews have more value than ever. However, a recent study by Fakespot Inc. has shown that over a third of online reviews on major websites are fabricated. The volume of these fake reviews have encouraged the Federal Trade Commission to start pursuing charges against companies found to have forged reviews. Recently, the Commission ruled against high end skin-care brand Sunday Riley. This decision came after Sunday Riley had been accused of having employees write positive reviews of their products on Sephora’s website, as well as dislike negative reviews. The settlement prohibited the company from omitting the reviewer’s relation to the company in their evaluations of products. The allegations against Sunday Riley first became evident in 2017 when a whistleblower took to Reddit in order to expose the company’s malpractices. Once the FTC was notified of these accusations, their investigation into Sunday Riley began. Succeeding in their evaluation of the company, the FTC was able to confirm the claims of the whistleblower that the CEO had sent emails to her workers detailing precise instructions on how to forge reviews. Sunday Riley is not the first or last company to participate in these kinds of activities, but hopefully Sunday Riley’s embarrassing public display will discourage other companies from fabricating reviews.
Many people have voiced their discontent with the settlement, believing that the lack of financial penalty makes the punishment too lenient. According to Rohit Chopra, one of the two FTC commissioners who disagreed with the terms of the settlement, “The law has long recognized that false advertising is an unfair method of competition that harms both consumers and honest businesses,” voiced Chopra. “We must remember this when it comes to calibrating consequences for wrongdoers and comprehensively attacking the problem of fake reviews.” I agree with Rohit Chorpa that in order to prevent future occurrences of these fraudulent activities, the FTC should implement harsher penalties on companies who are actively misleading customers through online reviews. Nonetheless, the burden of preventing fraudulent reviews should not solely fall on the Federal Trade Commission. The parent websites should be taking steps to prevent these disingenuous reviews from influencing customer decisions. For example, in 2019 alone Amazon has spent over 400 million dollars trying to protect customers from review fraud. If more online retailers followed their lead, customers across the country would benefit tremendously.
ww.wsj.com/articles/black-friday-shoppers-beware-of-fake-five-star-reviews-11574937001. Accessed 4 Dec. 2019.
http://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/28/business/online-reviews-fake.html. Accessed 4 Dec. 2019.