FTC Proposes Rule to Eliminate Fake Reviews

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed a new rule that would make it illegal to post fake reviews and testimonials, suppress negative reviews, or pay for positive reviews.

Eight specific practices would be illegal under the new rule:

    • Using Fake Reviews. Reviews by people who are non-existent, did not actually use the product or service, or who misrepresent their experience with it.

    • Review Hijacking. Repurposing a review from one product to fit a different product.

    • Review Compensation. Offering money or other incentives in exchange for a positive review of a product or service, or a negative review of a competitor’s product or service.

    • Insider Influence. Owners/officers/managers of a company writing a review of their own product or service; or soliciting reviews from employees/relatives without disclosing their relationship.

    • Controlling Review Sites. Companies controlling websites that claim to provide independent reviews but actually promote the companies’ own products.

    • Suppressing Negative Reviews. Eliminating or limiting negative reviews, thereby creating a false assumption of more positive reviews.

    • Suppressing Reviews by Threat. Creating fear of physical or legal action for posting negative reviews.

    • Social Media Influence. Buying followers or acquiring fake followers.

Until now, the FTC has combatted fake reviews under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices. For example, in one recent case, the FTC targeted review hijacking. But the FTC is concerned about the increasing prevalence of fake reviews, especially with the rise of generative artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT, that can be used to write product reviews.

After the FTC publishes the proposed rule in the Federal Register, the public will have sixty days to comment.

If you would like more information about the FTC’s proposed rule or would like to file comments in the proceeding, contact an attorney in our Privacy, Data Protection, and Cybersecurity practice group.