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On-trade business body calls for action on malicious online reviews in wake of CMA report

Published:  23 June, 2015

On-trade leaders have called for greater transparency around online review websites after a report by the Competition & Markets Authority.

The report outlined "potentially misleading practices" including the posting of fake reviews by businesses, negative reviews being withheld from publication and businesses paying for blogs and other online articles without it being made clear to consumers.

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers said action was needed to protect both customers and businesses from malicious or misleading reviews.

Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "The CMA's report underlines what an important, resourceful and influential tool online review websites can be for the tourism industry.

"Online review websites operate on the basis of appearing to be objective, but the report has highlighted the confusion and damage that can be caused by fake, malicious or misleading reviews.

"Our members have stressed to us what an important tool these websites can be, but they have also earmarked a number of areas in which they feel current provisions are lacking.

"Businesses are at risk from misleading reviews and we would like to see further procedures for detecting and removing unfair or malicious reviews are put in place, along with a formal resolution procedure for disputes and complaints.

"Customers are also at risk and measures to protect them, such as the identification of paid-for listings and greater transparency regarding ratings systems are essential if we are to ensure fairness for users."

Nisha Arora, the CMA's senior director, consumer, said: "We have found that consumers who use online reviews and endorsements find them valuable, but we have also heard about some practices that may be unlawful.

"We are committed to ensuring that consumers' trust in these important information tools is maintained, and will take enforcement action where necessary to tackle unlawful practices.

"We have opened an investigation into businesses that may be paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles where the payment may not have been made clear to readers.

"We have also published information for businesses to tell them what they need to do to help them stay within the law."