The ACCC has announced it is interested in receiving complaints about fake online reviews
If you sell anything online, online reviews can be detrimental to your sales.
So it's with interest we report that the ACCC has announced it is interested in receiving complaints about fake online reviews, especially those that heap unwarranted praise on a trader.
"Fake testimonials can mislead consumers and give an unfair advantage to unscrupulous traders," said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.
There have been several well publicised controversies about web reviews created by members of the public.
Late last year, Amazon deleted a substantial number of book reviews from authors commenting on other writers' books in the same genre after a writer reportedly admitted posting positive reviews of his own works while criticising some of his peers.
Amazon has also reportedly removed reviews from people related to or friendly with the author, but there was no indication of how the company determined the relationships.
Some sites - including Amazon - allow people to post "reviews" if they haven't purchased the product in question.
Other examples include hotel staff allegedly being encouraged to place reviews on TripAdvisor and this report claiming some people had tried to extort benefits such as upgrades or discounts from accommodation providers under the threat of a negative online review.
Selling online means online retail is that potential customers can easily see what their peers think of the products or the trader.
But can you trust what you read?
Group buying schemes being watched
Another of the Commission's priorities are online group buying schemes, although according to NSW Fair Trading the number of complaints in this area has almost halved since Australia's consumer regulators launched a national project to tackle issues in the sector.
But Sims said "this year the work we have already commenced in looking closely at online group buying websites will come to a head. Despite recent inroads from the work of ACL regulators, during the past couple of years there has been a significant increase in complaints about these websites."
Choice recently warned consumers to beware of situations where more vouchers were being sold than the business was likely to be able to handle, to only buy vouchers from organisations following the Australian Group Buying Code of Conduct.
The ADMA has also published a guide for businesses wanting to offer services or products through group buying companies.