Reviews affect the sales of a product or service - this is obvious. That is why it is so important for any businessman who offers his product or service to have positive reviews, especially via the Internet. It is the prominence of these opinions that caused the market to witness the unauthorized practice of buying laudatory statements that had nothing to do with the actual feelings of the recipients (buyers). Such behavior results in a potential customer being deliberately misled about a product, service or vendor in general, in order to induce him or her to make a purchase, often also in a specific place on the Internet.
Buying positive reviews, or a lie that costs money.
Unfortunately, this procedure has grown to such proportions that state institutions regularly have to intervene. Therefore, the official position presented by the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection - Tomasz Chróstny, who strongly condemns such behavior, does not see it:
"The reputation of traders should be based on reliable information and real experiences of consumers. False reviews mislead consumers - especially those that appear to be authentic and made by customers who have actually used the services of a given trader. Such manipulative actions artificially inflate the rating of a given company and distort the fairness of the market game. This is detrimental to both consumers and healthy competition."
An agency from Poznań has been fined 40,000.00 zlotys for unfair market practices by the OCCP for falsifying online reviews. The agency traded positive reviews on the Internet.
National regulations are unambiguous.
Reference should be made to the provisions of the Act of April 16, 1993 on Combating Unfair Competition (Journal of Laws of 2022, item 1233) - hereinafter: the "Act". According to Article 3(1) of the Act - an act of unfair competition is an act contrary to the law or morality, if it threatens or infringes the interest of another entrepreneur or customer. In turn, according to Article 14(1) of the Act - it is an act of unfair competition to disseminate false or misleading news about one's own or another entrepreneur or business, with the aim of gaining advantage or causing harm. On the other hand, the provision that directly relates to the situation under analysis is Article 16(1)(2) and (4) of the Act - an act of unfair competition in the field of advertising is, in particular, an advertisement that misleads the customer and may thereby influence his decision to purchase goods or services and a statement that, while encouraging the purchase of goods or services, gives the impression of neutral information. It should be made clear explicitly that false or manipulated opinions are a market practice that, by misleading customers, is intended to increase the turnover of a given enterprise. Such behavior is both prohibited under national and EU regulations.
New regulations resulting from the Omnibus Directive - increased scrutiny of opinions.
Particularly noteworthy are the new regulations introduced by the Omnibus Directive. Under this directive, the transparency of the online shopping process will definitely increase. From now on, any trader that offers the possibility to add comments/feedback on its product or service must state how it verifies the authenticity of these opinions. In addition, the entrepreneur should indicate how he verifies the authenticity of these reviews and whether he publishes them all. The consequence of an entrepreneur's failure to take action to bring his e-business into compliance with the Omnibus Directive is a penalty of up to 10% of turnover.
Who is responsible for false reviews on the Internet?
At this point, it should be unequivocally emphasized that responsibility for such prohibited market practices lies both with the entity that provides services related to offering to purchase positive reviews on the Internet and also with entrepreneurs who do not sufficiently protect consumers from the scourge of false reviews on the websites they manage.
Watch out for increased checks on the purchase of fake reviews.
Already, the OCCP has announced that it will not stop its activities related to the verification of the online market through the prism of buying positive reviews. Extensive inspection activities in this regard have already been scheduled for this quarter (Q2 2023).
Act of April 16, 1993 on combating unfair competition (Journal of Laws 2022, item 1233).