Are Fake Reviews Illegal? The Truth in Plain Terms

Marketing 20 minute read 14th August 2023

As any business owner knows, consumers rely heavily on reviews to make purchasing decisions. Reviews can attract customers or leave a business empty, with little chance for fixes. Because of this, It’s no wonder businesses try to boost their online reputation through fake reviews. But the burning question is, “Are fake reviews illegal?” What if those reviews aren’t entirely genuine? What about purchased or fraudulent reviews?

As you’ll learn in this article, the matter is delicate and has many nuances. This comprehensive guide will help you navigate the complex realm of online reviews. Here is everything you need to know about the legality of fake reviews.

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Fake reviews are a quick fix to improve a business’s online reputation. What does the law say about it? Is this practice ok? Let’s break it down.

In many jurisdictions, fake reviews fall under the umbrella of false advertising. In that case, they are illegal. Fabricated and defamatory reviews violate laws and regulations enforced by organizations in charge of protecting consumers.

Here’s a brief rundown of how a few agencies treat fake reviews:

  • The FTC in the USA. FTC’s guidelines stress the importance of honesty and transparency in advertising, which extends to online reviews. Misleading consumers with false reviews can lead to hefty fines.
  • The CMA in the UK. The CMA has taken action against several companies for posting fake reviews. This signal that they are serious about stopping this practice.
  • The ACCC in Australia. The ACCC also has strict rules against misleading and deceptive practices, which include posting fake reviews.

Similar views and practices hold true everywhere in the world, including Asia and the EU.

So, are fake reviews illegal? In a nutshell, yes, they can be. Fake customer reviews, while seemingly innocuous on the surface, can have serious implications in the eyes of the law.

Illegality lies in the principle of ‘deceptive practice’ or ‘false advertising’ prevalent in many legal systems. Deceptive practice or false advertising refers to misleading consumers with false information, making them believe something that isn’t true.

But legality is just one piece of the puzzle. Even if fake reviews are not legal, the practice persists. Sometimes is hard to clearly distinguish between a fake and a genuine review. Therefore, going to court cannot be convenient for many, as there are better ways to deal with fake reviews.

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Are Fake Reviews Illegal? Discovering the Spectrum of Fakeness

As seen, fake reviews might be illegal. However, to answer the question “Are fake reviews illegal?” it is essential to define what fake reviews are. Moreover, there are practices that make fake reviews more prone to break the law.

Let’s look at the varied forms of reviews and practices that might be illegal.

  1. Fabricated Reviews. As the word fabricated says, these reviews are totally fake and deceptive. These are reviews posted by individuals who have never used the product or service. An example is the hopeless business owner trying to boost its rating on local review sites. At its core, these reviews should not exist at all and are likely illegal.
  2. Incentivized Reviews. This category involves reviews where the customer receives an incentive to write a favorable review. In other words, the review is not genuine. While these are not necessarily illegal, they might break the terms of services of the platform.
  3. Review Stuffing. Similar to keyword stuffing in SEO, this practice consists of creating many fake positive reviews to compensate for negative ones. These might be illegal if defamatory or deceptive.
  4. Biased Reviews. These reviews are legal but not entirely genuine. These reviews come from people with a personal connection to the business. They may be employees, family, or friends who want to support the business.
  5. Negative or Positive Fake Reviews. These types of reviews are popular, and they are not necessarily illegal. It’s all down to the intent of the practice and how harmful they are.

It is important to note that the list above is not a legal consultation. These are basic guidelines to understand the practice and evaluate these practices generally.

Let’s now address some of the most common questions business owners grapple with regarding fake reviews.

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Are Fake Reviews Illegal? Answering the Most Common Questions of Business Owners

As a business owner, you know why reviews are important. Therefore, consider getting fake reviews for your rating to push it a bit. Or else you might be worrying about receiving fake reviews and not being able to intervene.

As you saw, it is not simple to answer the question, “Are fake reviews illegal?”.However, it is possible to answer your main concerns. In the next sections, we are going to elaborate on four questions about the subject:

  • What happens if you fake reviews?
  • Should you buy fake reviews?
  • Are positive and negative reviews illegal?
  • Are Google reviews illegal?

The indications you’ll find here will help protect your business reputation and prevent you from making rookie mistakes.

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What Happens if You Fake Reviews? Beware

If you are wondering what happens if you fake reviews, here is your answer. As you’ll read, grouping the consequences into three different batches is possible. Let’s explore them:

  • Reputational Damage. Trust is the foundation of a successful business. If you lie and your customer realizes it, they will abandon your business. Creating high expectations, you can’t fulfill will fire back at some point. Therefore, refrain from getting fake reviews to attract new customers. Even if you are successful in doing it, you will suffer the consequences of it at some point.
  • Legal Issues. Going back to the original question: are fake reviews illegal? As mentioned before, fake reviews might cause trouble if they are deceptive or misleading. Faking reviews can create legal issues that cost you a lot of money. Moreover, if you break the news for faking reviews, you’ll hardly recover the reputation damage connected to it.
  • Penalties From the Platform. Even if your customers don’t notice it and no one sues you, there’s one more factor to consider. This is the platform where fake reviews will appear. Most online review platforms have strict policies against fake reviews. Additionally, they have sophisticated algorithms and business units dedicated to uncovering cheaters. If caught, they can take action against your business. These span from removing fake reviews to publicly labeling your page as an unreliable business. For example, Yelp’s reputation management shows how Yelp keeps your page alive but labels it as not trustworthy.

All in all, faking reviews might result in a loss of business and reputation. Instead of faking reviews, consider using methods to get more positive reviews. There are strategies and software that can help you. For example, WiFi marketing solutions help local business grow their rating by sending real-time prompts to customers. You’ll learn about it later in the article.

Are Fake Positive Reviews Illegal?

Are fake positive reviews illegal? Let’s talk about it.

While fake positive reviews may seem harmless to boost your business’s reputation, they can be illegal. As mentioned, the basic principle is to consider how misleading the review is. Therefore, fooling customers into thinking they’re making an informed decision can be problematic. In other words, positive fake reviews are illegal in certain cases. Moreover, fake ratings can fire back.

From a legal standpoint, this practice is unfair and unethical. Therefore you risk having legal issues in most Western countries. Moreover, these practices violate the Terms of Services of most online review platforms. As these platforms strive to create a reliable place for consumers, they look out for scammers and cheaters.

Lastly, along with the fines or legal suits, you risk a reputational image that will be hard to restore. While the idea of buying positive reviews may seem a bargain, it is not. Moreover, there are many strategies and tools to get more good reviews. Building an honest reputation may require more time and effort. However, it’s a far more rewarding and sustainable strategy. It would be better to try these methods before resorting to murky practices.

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Are Fake Negative Reviews Illegal?

Are fake negative reviews illegal? As you can imagine, they can be.

Just as counterfeit positivity can harm, fake negative reviews too carry severe implications. These reviews typically aim to damage someone else’s reputation. Therefore, you risk even more because the other party has all the interest in protecting its business. Moreover, they are untruthful and unethical.

Negative fake reviews are illegal as they are deceptive. However, it is unlikely to incur legal issues. It is more convenient for a business owner to deal with it through the platform. Nonetheless, there are instances of people getting to court for writing fake negative reviews.

Furthermore, these false negative reviews violate the policies of platforms. Therefore, this is why it is simpler to remove a fake review from Google than to go to court.

Avoid writing fake negative reviews. If you think your competitors are doing better than you, consider investigating what you are doing wrong. It is more convenient to improve your operations and get positive reviews naturally.

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Are Fake Google Reviews Illegal?

Google is one of the most important platforms to have a positive online reputation. This is why many try to grow their rating with unethical practices. Are fake Google reviews illegal?

Illegal fake reviews do not depend on the platform but on the intent. If they mislead or deceive users, they are illegal. Therefore, are fake reviews illegal if they are on Google? Yes, and they follow the same principles outlined above.

However, as mentioned, going to court is the last resort for business owners. Additionally, Google has an interest in keeping its platforms reliable and trustworthy. If people stop using Google, the company will lose millions of dollars every day. Therefore, they have the best algorithm and smooth procedures to deal with fake reviews.

Google also prohibits biased or incentivized reviews. However, it is unclear how they manage to keep their platform clean.

You will regret it if Google catches you engaging in creating or encouraging fake reviews. You might get penalizations that throw your business visibility in the dark. Thus, you’ll lose money. In some cases, the company might decide to delist your business from Google’s search results entirely.

Instead of faking Google reviews, search for the best way to get Google reviews. It is not very different than other platforms. Moreover, as many use Google, building your presence on that platform is crucial to growing your business.

Are Fake Reviews Illegal? Best practices to protect your business from them

At this point, your question, “Are fake reviews illegal?” should have a clear answer. Therefore, let’s move into some tips for getting more reviews and protecting your business from fake reviews.

  1. Ask for Positive Reviews. Make it a business operation to ask for feedback from customers who’ve had a great experience with your services. This is the best way to get 5-star reviews, however might be time consuming. You can automate this task with specific tools. Or else, you might make it easier with QRcode marketing techniques.
  2. Provide Excellent Services. Positive reviews flow naturally if your customers are happy with their experience.However, you can do that if you know your customers deeply. Thus, start by creating your customers’ profiles and create products and services they love.
  3. Use Tools for Automation. The problem with manual methods is that they take time. However, there are many tools that can help you with getting reviews. For example, AI for restaurants can automate the procedure. Nonetheless, these technologies are still immature. Instead, social WiFi hotspots are the best for local businesses.
  4. Curate Your Online Reputation. Along with getting more reviews, you need to curate your online reputation across various review platforms. Keep your pages always up to date.
  5. Respond to Reviews. Never ignore reviews, even if you believe it’s fake. Respond professionally, showing that you take all feedback seriously.
  6. Flag Fake Reviews. Most platforms have mechanisms to report and remove fake reviews. If you spot fake reviews, you must use them. Alternatively, you can use review removal services to do that for you.

These practices will help you scale your reputation game. Nonetheless, remember that the best way to have a great online reputation is by offering great products and services.

Are Fake Reviews Illegal? The Takeaway for Business Owners Who Want To Succeed

Are fake reviews illegal? At this point, you know that fake reviews are illegal if they match certain criteria. If you want to grow your online reputation and get more reviews on autopilot, you can do it legally. With Beambox’s WiFi marketing platform, you can:

  • Get more positive reviews on the main local reviews sites
  • Automate all sorts of marketing initiatives
  • Manage your online reputation smoothly
  • Preventing genuine negative reviews from going online
  • Improve customer loyalty

Moreover, Beambox helps you keep your guest WiFi network secure for your customers. You can try Beambox for free for thirty days. Start your trial now!

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