I’ll let you in on a secret: 5 stars don’t mean squat.
But you probably already knew that. If you’re as unlucky (or naïve) as I am, you learned it from experience. You purchased a t-shirt on Amazon and received something smaller, pinker, and in several more pieces than you expected.
In retrospect, the fraudulent reviews seem obvious. “A++++++++ HIGHLY recommended, great sound quality” doesn’t seem very authoritative, especially for an item of clothing.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing you or I can do to stop the next sucker from buying a Bluetooth-enabled baby onesie. Fake reviews continue to proliferate on Amazon, eBay, Yelp, and other sites. In fact, analysts estimate that between 30% and 52% of online reviews are “inauthentic and unreliable.” And the phenomenon isn’t limited to a particular industry or consumer segment. From restaurants to hotels to auto dealerships, there’s always a chance that a business is paying for favorable—and totally bogus—feedback.
Well, maybe not for much longer. If recent actions by the Federal Trade Commission are any indication, the era of fake reviews could be coming to an end. Late last year, the FTC announced two major regulatory actions: one targeting fake reviews, and the other targeting the similar and perhaps equally pernicious practice of buying social media followers.
“The Federal Trade Commission recently made its first two key decisions aimed at cracking down on fake online reviews and the sale of fake social media ‘followers’ to brands and internet influencers.
The first cost the CEO and owner of now-defunct social media influence company Duvemi a fine of at least $250,000 for allegedly selling ‘fake indicators of social media influence, including fake followers, subscribers, views, and likes to users of social media platforms…’ That figure could be bumped up to $2.5 million if the FTC finds German Calas Jr. misrepresented his financial position.
The second settlement outlined by the FTC will cost Sunday Riley Skincare and the person behind the company, Sunday Riley, nothing, but explicitly forbids Riley and the company’s agents from posting misleading online product reviews. Similar decisions may already be in the works involving other companies, pointing to a much stronger effort to combat digital fraud than we’ve seen in the past.”
What does this mean for your dealership? If you run your business with honesty and integrity, absolutely nothing.
But for the sake of argument, let’s imagine you were a scrappy business owner thinking of the internet as the Wild West, doing anything and everything you could to get your brand out there. In that hypothetical situation, you could be in serious trouble if any of your 5-star reviewers or 50,000 Facebook fans wasn’t a real person acting on their own volition. Theoretically, if the FTC caught you, you’d be on the hook for hundreds of thousands—or millions—of dollars.
Of course, even if that were the case, the regulatory experts at KPA would have your back. See why dealerships across the US trust us for compliance training, audits, and guidance—no fake reviews here.