Have you ever wondered if all the testimonials on the internet about businesses are genuine? Recently, an Australian company has been caught out posting potentially false and misleading online testimonials in breach of the Australian Consumer Laws, and fined by the ACCC in the amount of $30,600.
In this case, Citymove Pty Ltd (Citymove) were issued with infringement notices by the ACCC on the grounds that they had made false or misleading representations by posting testimonials about their services on social networking websites, Google+ and You Tube, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.
The ACCC alleged that Citymove had created fake customer identities to post 3 testimonials online. Posting positive testimonials increases ratings on Google+, and in this case appeared on the first page of Google Search results. The ACCC were able to identify the testimonials posted by Citymove as potentially false or misleading when the same testimonial appeared in different locations on the internet under different customer names.
The ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said that “Consumers should be able to trust that testimonials online are posted by genuine consumers about genuine experiences. Businesses that post testimonials using fabricated customer identities risk enforcement action by the ACCC. Fake testimonials can mislead consumers and disadvantage competing businesses. Falsely generated ratings may lead a consumer to purchase a business’s product or service under a mistaken belief about the popularity and perceived quality of the business, in preference to other businesses.”
This is the second recent infringement notice that Citymove have received from the ACCC for using false customer testimonials. In 2011 Citymove paid a penalty of $6,600 for allegedly publishing false consumer testimonials on a website that was created by Citymove called “movingreview.com.au”.
The case serves as a reminder to businesses, that making false or misleading representations in the course of trade or commerce is a breach of the Australian Consumer Laws, which the ACCC takes seriously and has the power to police and penalise. And to consumers this serves as a warning to check testimonials and information from multiple sources and locations before making a purchase.