Hate fake reviews online? Coalition of states push FTC to crack down on consumer review manipulation

03 October 2023- Attorney General Michelle Henry, along with Attorneys General in the District of Columbia and Illinois, is leading a bipartisan coalition to combat fake and deceptive consumer reviews that influence consumers to make purchases.

Attorney General Henry joins 22 other state Attorneys General in filing a letter with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) supporting a new rule aimed at stopping deceptive review practices.

“Consumers rely on reviews to make what they believe are informed decisions about products and services. When reviews are falsified or bought, consumers are being misled into purchases that might not offer top value or fit their needs,” Attorney General Henry said. “The enactment of this rule would benefit millions of Pennsylvanians, and I am proud to join this coalition to remove fraudulent reviews.”

In the letter, the Attorneys General support the proposed Trade Regulation Rule on the Use of Consumer Reviews and Testimonials (“rule”), which, if enacted, will specifically prohibit:

  • Fake or false consumer reviews;
  • Repurposed reviews (reviews for one product made to look like reviews for different products);
  • Buying reviews (whether positive or negative);
  • Reviews by individuals affiliated with the seller without proper disclosures;
  • Representing a website or entity is providing independent reviews when the website or entity is owned or controlled by a seller;
  • Suppressing reviews; and
  • Buying and selling fake indicators of social media influence.

In addition to supporting the proposed rule, the Attorneys General also offered suggestions to strengthen the proposed rule’s provisions regarding review suppression.
Attorney General Henry’s support of the new rule is consistent with the Office of Attorney General’s previous enforcement efforts in this area of the law. In December 2020, the Office of Attorney General shut down a student loan forgiveness scam, perpetrated by a California-based company that allegedly manipulated positive reviews on the Better Business Bureau website.

The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, along with Attorneys General of the District of Columbia and Illinois, are joined in the letter by the Attorneys General from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.  A copy of the letter can be found here.