Wherever reviews are present, there is always a risk that some have been faked by someone affiliated with whatever is being reviewed. This practice of “astroturfing” has become increasingly prevalent online and stands as an obstacle between consumers and the trustworthy information they need to make informed decisions.
However, earlier this month, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo gave consumers a victory in this fight. Cuomo secured a $300,000 settlement with Lifestyle Lift, a New York plastic surgery chain, for publishing anonymous positive reviews about the company. Lifestyle Lift further agreed to, “not promote Lifestyle Lift’s services on the Internet without clearly and conspicuously disclosing that they are responsible for the content.”
Consumers and the cause of online transparency should benefit from this settlement as it will hopefully act as a deterrent to other companies who might seek to create false positive reviews online, lest they be dragged to court and fined similarly.
Here at Sitejabber, we often receive emails from online businesses and websites who are clearly concerned about how negative reviews (and a lack of positive reviews) will affect their business. It is our belief, and I think it is underscored by this settlement, that online businesses and websites are best served by being patient and providing the best quality services possible to their customers. Online consumers are smart and write more positive reviews of good sites than a site could ever hope to write itself; and even if good reviews are faked, dissatisfied customers will come forward and expose the true nature of the business or site. Transparency always wins in the end.