Thursday, 22 September 2016 10:57

Online reviews of businesses on ACCC's radar

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Online reviews of sharing services like Uber and Airbnb and other regular businesses will come under the microscope of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission as part of a worldwide move targeting such reviews and endorsements.

The initiative is part of an annual Internet sweep conducted by the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network and is carried out by more than 50 consumer protection agencies.

The topic for 2016 is "Online reviews and endorsements", and the ACCC will look closely at the way reviews work in the so-called sharing economy.

The competition watchdog has a ban on businesses making false or misleading claims through testimonials or reviews. It has a list of guidelines for businesses and has penalised those who violate the rules.

In July 2015, Citymove was fined $30,600 for using bogus testimonials posted on Google Plus and YouTube. And in December the same year, A. Whistle and Co, the franchisor of Electrodry Carpet Cleaning, was ordered to pay $215,000 for publishing fake testimonials online.

The ACCC has also examined the sharing economy where reviews and ratings can influence both users and providers to a great extent.

"The sharing economy is a fantastic development and offers a range of benefits for consumers and businesses. However, operators of sharing economy platforms must make sure that they have appropriate policies to regulate the use of reviews to avoid misleading consumers," ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said in a statement.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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