Competition Bureau Warns Businesses about Online Reviews

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OTTAWA – BUSINESS – The Competition Bureau is warning businesses to watch out for reviews posted by their employees that don’t properly disclose their business connection.

When posting online reviews about their company or its competitors, employees must disclose all connections they have with the business, product or service they promote, even if they’re providing their honest opinion. These connections have the potential to affect how consumers evaluate the reviewer’s independence. This applies to all types of reviews, including testimonials on social media.

Anyone who writes or permits writing reviews that give a false or misleading impression to consumers could be liable under the Competition Act.

Reviews must be transparent and truthful to allow consumers to make informed shopping choices.

To stay on the right side of the law, the Bureau recommends that businesses:

  1. Train employees to properly disclose their business connection when posting reviews about the company or its competitors. If it’s impossible to make their business connection clearly visible within their review, they should avoid posting it. For example, employees should not assign star ratings to products or services if the disclosure of the employment relationship is either impossible or separated from the overall rating.
  2. Put in place a compliance program to prevent misleading reviews by employees and build an effective monitoring system to detect misconduct.

“Online reviews often strike at the heart of a consumer’s buying decision. Shoppers trust that reviews are from real unbiased customers, just like them. When employees post reviews without disclosing their relationship with the business, consumers are misled. We will not hesitate to vigorously pursue enforcement action against problematic reviews.”

Matthew Boswell, Commissioner of Competition

Quick facts
  • The deceptive marketing practices provisions of the Competition Act apply to anyone who promotes a product, service, or any business interest, and those who do not comply may face significant penalties.
  • Businesses with strong compliance programs are best equipped to prevent problematic reviews by their employees. Tips to build one are available on the Bureau’s compliance portal.
  • For tips to recognize and avoid problematic reviews, Canadians can read the consumer alert Five-star fake out.
  • Anyone who believes to have come across a fake online review, or who is aware of an organized effort by a company to boost their ratings or lower their competitor’s, should report it to the Competition Bureau.
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