Rise in fake reviews reported

A regional law firm has reported an increase in the number of its leisure industry clients affected by ‘fake’ online reviews.

Now a legal expert is warning that action can be taken against businesses or individuals which leave such reviews about competitors.

The warning follows the announcement of an investigation into fake reviews by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Figures released by the CMA reveal approximately 54 per cent of adults use online reviews with an estimated £23bn spent by consumers influenced by review sites. The organisation is now looking into misleading practices surrounding online reviews, and issued advice to help businesses comply with the law.

Kelly Mather, solicitor in the Litigation team at Napthens, says she has had a ‘surprising’ number of inquiries from businesses in the Lancashire leisure industry who fear they have been the victim of such reviews.

Kelly said: “Online reviews have become one of the most relied upon sources when consumers are deciding what to purchase, for instance when booking a hotel room or a table at a restaurant.

“Although it can be an extremely beneficial tool to share positive testimonials and help to promote a business, it can also be easily abused.

“If such a review has a negative impact on a business, then it may be possible to claim damages, which will vary depending on the level of damage judged to have been caused. “We have seen a number of enquiries about such practices, and businesses with concerns about this worrying trend should contact their legal advisor for guidance.”