Fake Reviews Result in Fines for SEO CompaniesWritten by Michael Levanduski
September 25, 2013 # 10:28 am # Industry News, Legal Challenges, Specials # 5 Comments
The NY Attorney General has settled with 19 SEO companies & small businesses which have agreed to pay more than $350,000 in combined fines. The settlement was the result of a year-long investigation into their marketing practices, including writing and promoting fake reviews of products. Writing reviews is a common practice in marketing, though the reviews must be honest and accurate in order to be permitted.
The companies which were fined paid between $2,500 and $100,000 and had to agree to put an end to their practices of writing and soliciting fake reviews. Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General, said the following about this case:
This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution. And companies that continue to engage in these practices should take note: “Astroturfing” is the 21st century’s version of false advertising, and prosecutors have many tools at their disposal to put an end to it.
This is the latest and one of the largest, examples of a trend where fake reviews are being challenged legally. Edumnds.com, for example, took a marketing firm to court over fake accounts and reviews. That case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Several other companies have been suing or being sued over the past several months for similar practices.
While there is certainly a crack down on writing false reviews of products, the fact is that the vast majority of individuals and companies using questionable review writing techniques aren’t getting caught. There is significant up-side to these companies, because of the fact that these types of reviews work so well for driving sales. The risk is starting to become more significant, however, which will likely discourage many marketers from using this practice in the future.
Do you use review writing in your marketing practices? If so, what do you do to ensure all your reviews are fair and accurate?