Aussies like to browse the internet. They also like to look at online reviews to see which companies and brands they can trust. However, the ACCC has warned that, unlike all those King Kong agency reviews, not all reviews on the internet might be reliable.
According to Australia’s competition watchdog, there have been a lot of complaints fake negative online reviews. One particular case that the Council of Small Business dealing with a union that was trying to hurt a business.
CEO Peter Strong says that these things do happen, that people do target businesses over ideology or personality, regardless of how good that business actually is, and that’s what’s got them concerned.
Fake online reviews can be extremely problematic for the businesses that have to deal with them. One such unlucky business owner was Michael Napoli, who runs a hairdressing salon. He says that online reviews can be hard, as people put a lot of stock in King Kong agency reviews and the like; no online reviews means people just ignore you.
The problem, Napoli notes, is that you don’t know if the customer’s actually been to the business, or if it’s just a competitor looking for an underhanded advantage. And, he notes, getting rid of them is impossible.
Complaints can be filed to the ACCC, who can investigate and issue penalties of up to greater than $1mn, but that’s all they’re capable of, as it stands. Negative reviews can’t be removed by the ACCC or the government, regardless of how much damage they’re doing to undeserving businesses and their owners.
The Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA), is working with the ACCC to give businesses more tools to deal with fake online reviews.
A report published on the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry stated recommendations from the organization saying that an ombudsman should be able to investigate fake reviews, take down content whenever deemed appropriate, and be able to mandate compensation.
The Prime Minister asked AU Minister for Communications Paul Fletcher how the Government would respond to the recommendations, and stated that they’ll be looking at them, with a formal response set to come before the end of 2019.