Are Fake Reviews Really Illegal?


Headlines such as ‘Government to make fake reviews illegal’ have certainly brought fresh attention back onto the subject of fake reviews. As regular readers of our blog will know we’ve published blogs on fake reviews previously and, as you might expect, there are certainly lots of opinions and information about fake reviews online, along with documentation and guidelines for review collection that shows where the boundaries are. In this blog we’ll explore:

  • The legalities around leaving reviews
  • Fake customer reviews
  • Fake reviews left by businesses themselves
  • More on review gating

The Legalities Around Leaving Reviews


Let’s start off by exploring whether posting a fake review in the UK is ‘just’ unethical or actually illegal. Clearly posting fake reviews is extremely unethical, but it is also illegal here in the UK.

Purposefully misleading your customers (which includes posting fake reviews as well as failing to include negative reviews) could place you in violation of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, which states that businesses cannot conduct misleading actions or omissions which are likely to cause a consumer to make a different decision. You may also find yourself falling foul of various advertising codes too, so be warned!

Furthermore, not only is it illegal to post fake reviews about your business, it’s also illegal to post damaging fake reviews about another business (such as a competitor). Trying to sabotage another business like this could leave your business open to being sued for malicious falsehood.

If you’re wondering why this is now being taken so seriously, let us share with you that Trustpilot recently revealed that they removed 2.2 million fake reviews from their open platform in 2020 alone, which really shows how big of an issue false reviews have become.


Couple that with the fact that 96% of customers use online reviews when shopping online and it’s easy to see that reviews have become very important in the purchasing process.

Were you aware that sites like Amazon even reward products with consistently high reviews by awarding them an ‘Amazon Choice’ badge? With a system like that in place it’s easy to see why unscrupulous businesses would be keen to purchase fake reviews, but how easy is it to do that? Well, Which? recently found ten websites selling fake Amazon reviews for just £5 each.

Leaving Reviews: Reviews From Fake Customers


Sadly, all it takes is a quick Google search to find somewhere to buy fake reviews. Anyone can create an account and leave a review on open platforms such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. That makes it very easy for the less than honest to write and post fake ratings and reviews, and extremely difficult for customers to make out the real reviews from the fake ones; but why would anyone engage in fake reviews in the first place?

Well, the answer to that is simple – money. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) estimates that £23 billion of customer purchases every year are influenced by online reviews, making fake reviews an extremely serious issue.

So how can you make sure that your business doesn’t fall victim to fake reviews?

  1. Use a trusted review platform to collect feedback. Using a provider that doesn’t allow just anybody to leave you a review ensures that your review rating is a true reflection of your products / service as the only reviews left are from genuine customers
  2. Regularly monitor and manage your digital presence, especially your Google My Business page, as this will often be one of the first places customers look to find more information on your business and its products / services. Reviews bring huge business benefits so give it the attention it deserves and you will be very well rewarded
  3. Respond to feedback (good and bad) within 48 hours and sooner if possible. The more you’re seen to be publicly responding, resolving and challenging potentially fake reviews the more transparent and trustworthy your business will appear to potential customers

Leaving Reviews: Fake Reviews Left by Businesses


Now, to ensure we got the detail right here (there’s quite a bit of law) we looked at The Internet Law Centre to see what they have to say about fake reviews left by businesses.

“There are two types of fake online reviews that are posted by businesses. The first type is positive fake online reviews about their own business and the second is a fake defamatory online review against a competitor.

“Regardless of whether a business owner posts fake online reviews about their own business or against a business of a competitors, the business owner could face an investigation by National Trading Standards, which is a body operated by local authorities and has prosecution powers, or by the Competition and Mergers Authority, which is a national body responsible for preventing and reducing anti-competitive activities.

“Business owners who post or who are responsible for posting fake online reviews against competitors, could find themselves being sued for malicious falsehood. To bring a claim for malicious falsehood against a business owner who is caught posting fake online reviews against competitors, you only need to prove on balance of probabilities that the fake online reviews had been posted by the defendant. There is no requirement to prove the identity of the defendant beyond reasonable doubt.

“If you can show that it is more likely than not to be the person you suspect, this would often be enough. Because business owners who post fake online reviews against their competitors usually hire somebody else to do this on their behalf, it’s enough to demonstrate the business owner’s responsibility. This is done by presenting to the court circumstantial evidence that reveals, on balance, that it’s more likely than not to be the defendant who had been responsible for posting the fake reviews.

“With malicious falsehood the victim business owner is not required to prove damage to reputation nor does he/she need to prove damage to his/her own personal reputation. All that he/she needs to show is that the defendant maliciously published a false statement which identifies the claimant, or his/her business and that words published had been calculated to cause the claimant financial loss or, depending on the facts of the case, have caused actual loss to the claimant.”

So, there you have it. Thank you to The Internet Law Specialists for clarifying the potential legal implications for a business leaving a fake review.

What’s extremely comforting to us is that it’s taken this seriously and that if, as a business, you’ve suffered from another business leaving you a fake review there is something, very powerful, that you can do about it.

Leaving Reviews: Review Gating


Review gating is when a business only encourages happy customers to leave a Google review. By first soliciting feedback privately a business may decide whether to ask that customer to leave feedback publicly or not. This is strictly against Google My Business’ review guidelines and comes with heavy penalties.

To avoid review gating all you need to do is invite all customers to leave you a review and then respond to them promptly and efficiently. To read more about review gating have a look at our blog ‘How can you Moderate Reviews the Right way?


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