International consumer protection enforcers issue guidance for online reviews and endorsements stakeholders

1 July 2016

The International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN) has released a set of guidelines for market participants involved in the collection, moderation and publication of online reviews and endorsements.

Global enforcers have found that online reviews and endorsements are proving useful to consumers when, for example, booking travel accommodation and other travel-related products and services. It is important that consumers can trust the reviews and endorsements they use to help make these buying decisions.

“The ACCC encourages businesses to familiarise themselves with ICPEN’s online reviews guidelines. Consumers rely upon online reviews when make purchasing decisions and it is crucial that reviews are honest and represent the full spectrum of views,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“Compliance with these guidelines will build consumer confidence in online reviews, and help review platforms, traders and digital influencers avoid regulatory action.”

Three targeted guidelines have been prepared:

  1. ICPEN Guidelines for Review Administrators;
  2. ICPEN Guidelines for Traders and Marketing Professionals; and
  3. ICPEN Guidelines for Digital Influencers (covering bloggers, vloggers, tweeters, and all other contributors to online publications).

These three guidelines have been developed by ICPEN members to help all consumers and businesses involved in online reviews and endorsements to act appropriately.

The key messages for stakeholders in each of the three guides are:

Review administrators need to:

  • be equal and fair in the collection of reviews,
  • be alert and proactive in the moderation of reviews, and
  • be transparent in the publication of reviews.

Traders and marketing professionals need to:

  • ensure they do not prevent consumers from seeing the whole picture of genuine, relevant and lawful reviews;
  • ensure they do not write, commission or publish fake reviews;
  • ensure paid-for content is disclosed; and
  • ensure other relevant commercial relationships are disclosed.

Digital influencers need to:

  • disclose, clearly and prominently, whether content has been paid for;
  • be open about other commercial relationships that might be relevant to the content; and
  • give genuine views on markets, businesses, goods or services.

These ICPEN guidelines provide general principles for market participants to follow but are not a substitute for professional legal advice and/or compliance with national laws.

Consumers, who have complaints about companies, in other countries, are encouraged to lodge details at www.econsumer.gov.

Background

The ICPEN is an informal network of consumer protection law enforcement authorities representing 60 global economies.

ICPEN provides a forum where authorities can cooperatively share information and look to combat consumer problems which arise with cross-border transactions in goods and services, such as e-commerce fraud and international scams.

The ICPEN membership is Angola, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigerian, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vietnam, and Zambia.

Econsumer.gov is an ICPEN initiative enabling consumer complaints to be recorded, shared and analysed between the 40+ countries participating.

For more information visit www.icpen.org

Release number: 
MR 116/16
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