Monday, 25 November 2019

Inviting selected customers to write reviews of your business? - it's illegal

This article is aimed at two distinct audiences: clients who find they are competing with businesses that are flouting the CMA regulations and those businesses themselves.

The regulations

Most businesses (and all regular readers of this blog) are aware by now that two actions are illegal...
  • selectively inviting 'happy' customers to write reviews - known as cherry-picking
  • Using a filtering mechanism to identify such customers - known as gating
There's more on the detail of these regulations in this article. But, as with all laws, they are ineffective if enforcement is lacking. The CMA has much besides reviews on its plate, so, as is common with government bodies of this ilk (HMRC anyone?) they rely heavily on whistleblowers. Here is the kind of letter a whistleblower might easily, and with complete justification, write...




At this point, the CMA would be bound to open an investigation. The nature of this investigation will depend on the CMA's assessment of the severity of the infringement of its regulations. This assessment, in turn, will depend on the potential harm the infringement may do to consumers. Businesses playing fast-and-loose with reviews self evidently seek to influence consumers to take an action - with financial consequences - that they might not otherwise have taken had the business been in compliance with the regulations.


The CMA has teeth




In summary...

If your business is doing any of the following...

  • inviting selected customers to post reviews to Google
  • using any kind of mechanism to establish what kind of Google review a customer might write - a feedback system, another review site, a questionnaire, simple 'shop-floor' feedback from staff
...it is breaking the law (the business and its directors personally). You should stop any such activity immediately and seek advice on compliant review management.


Further reading...

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