The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has released new online review guidelines.

With the growth of online reviews as part of companies’ marketing strategies, we want to remind our clients and friends to stay vigilant. Since businesses first started opening their doors, word of mouth recommendations have been the cornerstone of a successful business. Now with the proliferation of online reviews, that “word of mouth” recommendation can now reach millions of people. This comes with good and bad reviews. No one likes negative reviews, but you should try to respond to every review, good or bad.  In the case of a negative review, you should respond with a positive solution that addresses the reviewer’s concerns. This guidance probably isn’t new to you, so why should you care?  Because the FTC is increasing its regulatory scrutiny of what we are all doing with our reviews.

The FTC is going to do more than just frown if a business starts to hide negative reviews either on their own or though third party service providers. If you are using an external platform for your reviews, then you also have to abide by the platform’s rules.  Those rules may include no incentivized reviews without appropriate disclosure, or the platform may not allow any incentivized or affiliated reviewers. The FTC wants you to be transparent and fair. Follow these simple steps to stay in the good graces of the FTC:

  1. Do not misrepresent your reviews
  2. Avoid asking affiliated connections (i.e. staff) for reviews
  3. Have a process in place to verify reviews are genuine, and treat all reviews equally
  4. If you have a question, check with the FTC and discuss with your legal counsel

The FTC is actively searching for deceptive and unfair reviews, and they are warning companies of future penalties for disregarding their guidelines. While reviews tell some of your story, remember, how you respond is critical as well.

Click here to read the latest guidelines from the FTC and, as always, we’re here to help you navigate these waters and help tell your story… well.

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