October 11, 2022
Media contact: National Consumers League – Katie Brown, email@example.com, (202) 207-2832
Washington D.C.— A coalition of consumer advocacy and industry organizations is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to do more to crack down on organized user review fraud. In a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan and Attorney General Merrick Garland, the groups stressed that the trustworthiness of user reviews is a critical factor in consumers’ purchasing decisions and for businesses’ reputations.
While fraudulent reviews are not new, organized rings of review brokers coordinating the placement hundreds or even thousands of fraudulent reviews for products on popular marketplaces and e-commerce websites are a growing problem. These operations sell positive reviews to sellers of substandard products, resulting in consumers purchasing poor quality or even unsafe products and services. Honest sellers, including small businesses, are harmed when they lose sales to dishonest competitors who purchase reviews.
Fraudulent reviews cost consumers an estimated $152 billion globally in 2021, with $28 billion in losses from the U.S. economy alone. Additionally, researchers found that by deceiving buyers into purchasing lower quality and potentially unsafe products, fake reviews lead to $0.12 of consumer welfare lost for every $1 spent online.
Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission brought suit against Roomster, a rental listing platform that allegedly deceived consumers by buying fake reviews and charging for access to fraudulent listings. The FTC’s suit also targeted a review broker who organized the sale of tens of thousands of fake reviews to Roomster. The groups’ letter urged the FTC and DOJ to increase the resources devoted to fighting such scams to hold the purveyors of organized review fraud accountable.
“User reviews are a critical part of the purchasing process for millions of consumers every day,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League, which organized the coalition. “While the FTC and DOJ have taken some steps to crack down on brokers who profit off of fake reviews, more needs to be done if we are to safeguard the trustworthiness of reviews.”
“Online reviews provide great value to small brands as they are the great equalizer when customers are considering buying new products or patronizing new businesses,” said Rob Retzlaff, Executive Director of the Connected Commerce Council. “Fake reviews undermine trust in the entire e-commerce industry, and the FTC and DOJ should do everything in their power to crack down on those abusing the system.”
“Consumers have come to rely on online reviews to distinguish a valuable product or service from a waste of time and money. If fraudulent reviews become rampant online, they risk ruining a sizable portion of online purchases, “said Ruth Susswein, Consumer Action’s Director of Consumer Protection. “We need to rein in online fake review brokers.”
“It’s crucial that consumers have faith in brands,” said Maura Regan, president of Licensing International. “Counterfeiting and fraudulent reviews go straight to the heart of the global licensing industry because a lack of trust hurts all businesses across every category and on every platform.”
The letter to the FTC and DOJ was signed by the Center for Data Innovation, Chamber of Progress, Consumer Action, Connected Commerce Council, Licensing International, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), National Consumers League, National Restaurant Association, TechNet, and Women in Toys, Licensing & Entertainment/W I T Foundation.
To view the full letter, click here.
About the National Consumers League (NCL)
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit https://nclnet.org.