Who can be liable?
Both businesses and individuals may be liable for contraventions of the ACL. For example:
- Businesses using social media: Businesses making false or misleading claims about their products as part of a marketing or promotional campaign conducted on Facebook or Twitter.
- Employees and officers: The employees or officers of businesses who, for example, use their personal social media sites to make false or misleading claims about their employer's products or business or those of its competitors. In these situations, both the business and the employees or officers responsible for the conduct in question could be liable for contravening the ACL.
- Businesses failing to monitor their social media sites: By not monitoring a social media site and not removing false or misleading comments, a business may be taken to have endorsed or adopted them and so contravened the ACL. Businesses can choose to respond to false or misleading comments instead, but it is possible that a response may not be sufficient to override the false impression made by the original comments. It may be safer to simply remove misleading or deceptive comments.
- Businesses that selectively remove or edit reviews: Removing or editing negative reviews for commercial or promotional reasons could contravene the misleading provisions of the ACL. If the total body of the review doesn’t reflect the opinion of the consumer who submitted the review, other consumers may be misled.
- Private individuals: People may contravene the ACL even in circumstances where they are not engaged in their own business. For example, using social media to promote a pyramid scheme to raise money for a local sporting club or charity may contravene the ACL. Similarly, making false or misleading allegations about a business as part of a campaign against its activities may contravene the ACL.