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Crackdown on fake testimonials

Online deceptions involving fake testimonials have resulted in significant consumer detriment, according to an inquiry by national and state-based consumer protection agencies.

The inquiry conducted by Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and led by NSW Fair Trading has resulted in more than 40 businesses across Australia receiving substantiation notice over the past six months, with state and territory agencies demanding proof the glowing testimonials posted on business’ web sites are genuine.

Minister  for NSW Fair trading Stuart Ayres said NSW has issued 28 notices, resulting in 18 businesses substantiating their testimonials.

Three warning letters were issued, two businesses were  referred for investigations by Fair Trading, one business amended its web site and another requested extension.

The request to the substantiation notice by one business is currently under review.

“False testimonials are a breach of the ACL,” Mr Ayres said

“Accurate consumers review and testimonials play an important role in online consumers’ decision making an consumers are entitled to expect reliable and independent information about a product or a service.

Across the 11 market surveyed in the National Testimonial Project, three sectors were identified as having comparatively high risk  of carrying false online review content.

“The restaurant, real estate and alternative health care sectors are particularly prone to the publication of bogus reviews on a variety of services and products,” Mr Ayres said.

“The heavy reliance by customers on testimonials in the alterative health care sector is of particular concern, given the alternative cure are targeted at vulnerable members of the community.”