The Internet is a place where people can express their opinions on anything they want. Business review websites have become very popular, but those types of websites usually do not get a lot of traffic without already having reviews. To speed up the growth of their review websites, some website owners will pay writers to create reviews regardless as to whether or not the writer has any experience with the company or not. In general, website owners try to keep these reviews positive. But they also encourage some negative reviews to make their website look legitimate.
The Internet is also a place where a business can post fake reviews of one of its competitors to try and ruin that competitor's business. While it is difficult for a company to prove that it is the victim of fake reviews, it is not impossible to prove and it is something business owners should look into.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the federal body that is in charge of overseeing all business activities as they affect consumers in the United States. It is the FTC's job to make sure that marketing and information released about or by a company is accurate. To that end, it is illegal to post fake reviews to try and ruin a company's reputation and it is also illegal to pay writers for reviews of companies the writers know nothing about.
For a review to be legal, the reviewer must have a proven connection with the company being reviewed and the review cannot be paid. The FTC takes all of this very seriously and routinely investigates claims of fake or paid reviews.
The hardest part about getting rid of damaging fake or paid reviews is proving that the reviews are fake or paid in the first place. Sometimes a hotel can prove a review is fake if the reviewer posts their name and city and the hotel can find no record of any guest using that information. But proving a review to be fake or paid requires solid evidence and that can be hard to come by.
Before taking legal action, you should attempt to contact the offending website and get the review removed. You can expect the offending website to ask you to prove the review is fake or paid before they will remove it. But even if you can prove it, some offending websites will simply ignore your request. That is when you take everything to the next level.
An experienced attorney in the fields of libel, defamation of character, or false light will know the best ways to prove a review is fake or paid and will be able to put together a more comprehensive request to have the review removed. If the offending website does not respond to your attorney, then the attorney will know exactly how to elevate the issue all the way to the FTC.
The Internet can be a sea of great information, but it can also be a wasteland of deceptive reviews as well. If you suspect that a review that is critical of your business is fake or paid, then you should try to resolve the issue directly with the offending website. If that does not work, then you should call on an experienced attorney to help repair the damage done by a fake review.